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%.

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.