Comparing Important Opinions

I am replying to the criticism of the current Student Opinion Survey posed in your March 1 editorial “Serious Survey”: that it “has a substantial flaw — it overlooks the Guest Policy.”

One of the greatest values of the survey is it allows for the longitudinal comparison of student opinions over time, as well as measuring current opinion. The questions are the same — with the exception of three questions about the use of computers added in 1996 — as they were in 1985 in the first survey. We purposely do not include questions about current issues (or things we suspect are current issues) because to do so would make meaningful comparison of survey results between years, whether on specific questions or in broad areas, impossible. We didn’t “omit” the “information” about the residential guest and visitor policy from the survey any more than we “omitted” questions about how Sept. 11 has affected our students or what effects they are feeling (or fearing) in the wake of a changed economy. Both are certainly as “vital” to the lives of students as opinion on the guest and visitor policy. Their inclusion would produce “skewed results” of the survey, rather than the other way around. As I told Lisa Lenner when she and I spoke last week, I am presuming each of these issues will emerge as some of the strongest current concerns of our students when they add their personal comments to the survey.

We count on students to make their opinions and suggestions known on this or any other issue via written comments. Your own words — rather than standardized “strongly disagree, … strongly agree” answers — are far more compelling than any way we could phrase responses for a host of possible issues. Indeed, the written comments on the Dec. 1996 survey five years ago were extensive, thoughtful and helpful beyond our imagining. We hope your comments in 2002 will be as insightful and useful.

I want to thank The Daily Free Press for its stated support of the survey. I am happy to report that of over 14,000 potential respondents, 4,100 had logged on and 2,200 had returned surveys as of March 1. Roughly 16 percent of undergraduates have now responded. We hope to receive at least a 25 percent response before we bring the survey down later this month.

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