USG releases survey results
The results of the third Committee on Background and Opportunity survey, which were delayed by over two months, will be released to the University community on Friday.
Based on a survey of 1,857 undergraduates conducted by the USG over summer 2011, the COMBO III results indicate there are vast differences in how students’ backgrounds affect their experiences at the University. Preliminary data from the survey were initially released last December, and the USG had initially planned to release the results within the first two weeks of October. But the release was delayed until now to ensure accuracy and thorough analysis, according to USG president Bruce Easop ’13.
Easop said he was struck by how students’ perceptions of accessibility of campus resources varied depending on background and by how students’ backgrounds impacted their mental health.
The highlights of the survey’s major findings demonstrate that students’ experiences at the University vary depending on race, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status, religion and athletics.
“COMBO III takes student concerns out of the role of anecdote and puts quantitative numbers behind the issues,” Easop said.
For example, the results of the survey indicate that less-religious students are more comfortable interacting with professors. Religious students are more stressed about trying to balance their academic schedules, social lives and extracurricular activities.
Additionally, students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or asexual report higher levels of depression than students that identified as heterosexual. These students are also more likely to develop new mental health issues after coming to Princeton.
Easop said the issues that need to be addressed based on the results of the survey are not solely the responsibility of the USG, but rather Easop said he advocates for a partnership between the USG and University stakeholders to address and implement changes.
Class of 2015 senator and newly elected USG president Shawon Jackson ’15, who led the project, said he hopes to discuss the results of the survey with different departments and groups on campus, such as the Fields Center or the LGBT Center, to determine why the survey corroborated these disparate trends.
“I think our job moving forward — and the job of Shawon’s administration — is to take some of the data and concerns and bring those to each of the stakeholders involved,” Easop said.
Jackson explained he doesn’t want to take into account every single statistic derived from the survey, but rather to focus on findings that could be translated into new USG initiatives.
“We really want to hone in on the ones that are plausible for us to address and the ones that are most important,” he said.
The survey results demonstrated that socioeconomic class has a significant impact on students’ experiences at the University. Jackson noted that many of the challenges that low-income students face, such as feeling less comfortable in precept discussions and reporting higher levels of depression, are not unique to the environment at Princeton. But some trends, such as the higher probability of students from higher socioeconomic classes to bicker and be accepted to a selective eating club, are unique to low-income students at Princeton. Concern over socioeconomic stratification in the eating clubs was also raised in the 2010 report of the Task Force on Relationships between the University and the Eating Clubs, whose recommendations ultimately contributed to the Interclub Council’s recent decision to implement a multi-club Bicker system.
Jackson said he believes many of these issues can be addressed through policy changes within the administration, perhaps through increases in financial aid or adjustment to other funding arrangements for students.
“My intuition is that some of these issues are common amongst other colleges and universities, but a few are Princeton-specific,” Jackson said.
COMBO III results also indicate the likelihood of accessing campus resources depends on gender, with male students feeling less comfortable going to the Writing Center and the McGraw Center. The results of the survey also show that female students report higher levels of depression.
COMBO III also highlighted the distinct experiences of student athletes at the University. The survey indicates that students who play a varsity sport feel more comfortable in an eating club. Furthermore, the recruited athletes feel less comfortable in precept discussions, according to the survey.
Overall, the results of COMBO III provide empirical evidence that various campus groups, administrative departments and the USG can use to increase awareness on a variety of issues and strive to address some of them, Jackson said.
“COMBO is a great starting point for dialogue,” Easop said.