The Undergraduate Student Government released a Committee on Background and Opportunity V Survey on the last week of February to examine current campus climate and improve student life, according to USG president Aleksandra Czulak ’17.
“COMBO is basically a way to gauge how students’ backgrounds and identities impact their experiences on campus, the opportunities that they have here, and their perceived access to resources on campus,” said Natasha Madorsky ’17, project leader for COMBO and member of the USG Diversity and Equity Committee.
COMBO V surveys a large range of experiences, she said. The survey is broken into six sections: Demographics, Affiliations & Social Life, Academics, Summer Experiences & Post-Graduate Plans, Mental Health, and Campus Climate.
“We wanted to gather some more direct data on how students feel about campus climate, and about some of the issues surrounding race and identity that have come up in the last year or so,” Madorsky explained.
The survey is an ongoing effort under the USG’s Committee on Diversity and Equity Committee, she added. Though only three previous COMBO surveys have been released, COMBO V is a revamped version of previous surveys, according to Madorsky.
Czulak said COMBO IV, the previous version, was conducted under former USG president Shawon Jackson ’15. Data included survey responses from students in the Classes of 2016 and above.
According to Madorsky, data from COMBO IV was never compiled and released to the student body because the analysis was unreadable and incoherent throughout. Czulak said that it is unfortunate that the results from COMBO IV could not be released, but the data would not be relevant given the time that has passed since it was conducted.
Madorsky explained that it is not worth redoing the entire analysis of old data that does not include the majority of students on campus currently. Therefore, it is important to conduct a survey now, in order to make sure that it is a true reflection of the immediate campus climate, Madorsky said.
According to Czulak, administration-run surveys sometimes ask the same kinds of questions as USG surveys, but only release very limited data, so students and campus groups cannot use the data to figure out how to cater their activities and their priorities towards student needs.
“The more students we can get to fill it out, the more data we have that can be released back to the student body, to the USG, and to student organizations that seek to create a more inclusive campus community that really responds dynamically to the needs of students,” Czulak said.
Other surveys that the University sends to the student body include the WeSpeak survey, which did release all of the data last year, and the Enrolled Student Survey and the Senior Survey, Czulak noted.
Previous COMBO surveys have been analyzed by undergraduate students, but this time, graduate students will perform the analysis, she added.
USG wants to make the data from COMBO as accessible as possible, Czulak said.
“Because it’s a student-written, student-administered survey, and it’s the only one of its kind to do this, we’re able to aggregate and release all of the data that we get,” Madorsky said.
Madorsky, Sol Alvarez-Taubin ’16 and their team undertook a semester-long process involving substantial faculty feedback and input to revamp the entire survey. Madorsky said she worked with the Stuart professor of psychology and dean of Butler College Nicole Shelton, as well as professors in the sociology department and the Wilson school, to re-organize the survey format. Questions were taken out, new, more direct questions were added in and others were revised.
“We wanted to make sure that it was so legitimate that when we presented it to the University, they would have to say, ‘oh okay, these results are really meaningful,’” Madorsky explained.
At the bottom of the survey in the Campus Climate section, students can provide their opinions regarding proposed policy change statements, as well as write any other changes they would like to suggest to the University. There have been many responses so far, as well as candid thoughts about what the University could do better, Madorsky said.
“As excited as I am to collect all this information, I’m even more excited to send it to the groups who can actually make a difference with it,” Czulak said, referring to, in particular, the University Centers, student cultural groups, identity groups and eating clubs.
There is a wide range of institutions and groups on campus that the survey asks about, including the McCosh Health Center and Counseling and Psychological Services, Madorsky said.
“This data is going to go to every group on campus that has a potential to improve what they’re doing,” Madorsky added.
The last COMBO report was published in 2012, which is why the USG felt that another survey needed to be conducted this year.
“It’s 2016, and so much has changed,” Madorsky said.
There has been a very intense campus conversation happening on issues of diversity, equity, opportunity and students’ experiences on campus, she noted.
She added that these diverse student opinions will play a large role in creating a safer, more comfortable, and more inclusive campus that is effective for all students on this campus.
The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, according to Madorsky, and there are many variables and elements of experience that will contribute to valuable data for analysis, she said.
As of now, students in the Classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019 have not yet taken a COMBO survey, so the information from COMBO V will be helpful for future initiatives as well, Czulak said.
The survey will close on March 12 at 11:59 p.m.