Who comments on surveys?

On Tuesday the 17th, some members of the EvCC community gathered in Jackson to discuss last spring’s campus climate survey.  If you missed that discussion, fear not,  another opportunity is scheduled for October 1st, also in Jackson.  Some part of the discussion was devoted to concerns about anonymity and the willingness to speak freely in answering survey questions.

One way of examining who feels free to speak is to look at who makes additional comments in the comments section.  This doesn’t allow us to evaluate the overall level of freedom to speak but it does allow us to investigate equity if we assume that those who feel the freest are the most likely to make comments.  The following table shows the percentage of respondents in various categories who made open ended comments on the climate survey.

In this table I have separated exempt employees who supervise more than five employees and exempt employees who supervise less than five employees.  This was how we collected the original data but in the climate report I combined the two categories to increase the sample size.  If exempt employees were combined in this table their commenting percentage would be 19%.
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Overall the differences are relatively small given the small sample sizes involved.  The differences across gender, race/ethnicity and time working at EvCC are very likely to be random variation.  The differences across job classifications could also be due to chance but they are a bit larger and they conform to some of the other results that we discussed on Tuesday.  So, there might be something in these data that bears further investigation and discussion.

It is important to note that fear and freedom are not the only reasons that people comment. Something may have happened to stimulate faculty comments in this particular round of the survey.  Other things, like how frequently people write in their jobs and how quickly and accurately they type, can affect the likelihood of commenting on surveys.

That said, to the extent that people are constrained from commenting by anonymity concerns these data show that those concerns are equally common among different groups in the population.  That is how I read these data but feel free to leave our own interpretation of these data – or any other comments – in the comments section.

One response to “Who comments on surveys?

  1. Rich Ives

    I have frequently been a commenter on how easily we can misinterpret survey results and how they are generally skewed towards the perceptions of those formulating the questions. The clearest example we have here of how lack of questioned context creates false meaning is the chart showing the cost of education. Running Start and Mandatory Advising are both good examples of legislative attempts to save money disguised as benefits. Whether or not they are beneficial is a very tiny part of the picture. The state claims tuition is roughly 1/3 of the cost of attendance/operational costs. If tuition were a little over $1300 per quarter, the real total with state contributions would be about $4000 tuition plus $8000 state support. One would assume the overall cost to be similar for high school for junior and senior year, or $12000 per year. So a student attending high school would receive the full $12000 educational support for two years and then $8000 for two more, for a total of $40,000 in state educational support.

    A Running Start student taking a full college load beginning junior year would receive the college level $8000 support for two years and no high school during that time.

    While these figures are only rough estimates, it’s clear that Running Start saves the state as much $40,000 per equivalent to one Running Start student who takes a full college schedule starting junior year and graduates in two years with both a high school degree and a two-year college degree.

    Mandatory Advising has as one of its purposes, more expedient completion of a two year degree, which likewise saves the state 2/3 of costs for every course not taken. Clearly getting students through college faster saves the state money.

    No matter how good I might wish to think our college teaching is, I do not believe it can accomplish in two years what previously was done in four. I cannot conclude from this, especially in the light of the fall from approximately 13th in per student state financial educational support to 43rd during the time I have been teaching, and the Supreme Court’s recent decision that the state is in violation of its own laws for support of education, that the major changes in educational focus over the last decades have been made with the students’ greater acquisition of knowledge as the primary goal.

    These figures are only rough estimates, but the amounts involved are so large a little difference here or there, doesn’t change the point. In a state with half a dozen of the world’s largest corporations, I find it embarrassing to have to point out that whatever we might accomplish year to year in individual programs, the larger picture is miserable.

    Education accomplishes a number of job training bonuses as a part of its more essential goal. When we begin to treat it as a business, we reverse this relationship. Those with skills to do a job and not question effectively how and why that job is done, have not received an education. They have only been trained to find a place in the business world. It’s an important result, but it’s not a result that can insure real progress for the student and even less so for the country.