A photo of bapst with a survey overlay, questionmarks around it.
Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Student-Admin Forum Examines Student Experience Survey Results

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College sponsored a Student-Administrator Forum on Monday night to present an in-depth look at the findings of the Student Experience Survey taken by students during the Fall 2018 semester.

This event was the fifth Student-Admin Forum organized this semester, stemming from a “desire for more informal conversations with administrators about a variety of topics,” according to Joy Moore, Vice President of Student Affairs.

Other topics that have been addressed by previous forums have been the hiring of faculty (specifically faculty of color) as well as financial aid.

The presentation was led by Kelli Armstrong, Vice President for Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment (IRPA), whose team was responsible for developing the survey and “tabulating all the results.” Armstrong pointed out that this survey was unique compared to their other projects, in that it was the “first time [they’ve] asked every student to participate,” as opposed to focusing in on more specific groups, such as class years.

Developed in the spring of 2018 by a university -wide committee incorporating student and faculty voices, the survey sought to capture elements “endemic to BC’s culture” so as to better “understand the full BC experience” from the student perspective, according Armstrong.

The survey asked students questions related to their perspective on their overall experience at BC, the university’s mission, their experience with on-campus programs and services, academics, social pressure, unfair treatment, diversity, and their sense of community.

Generally, respondents rated their experience at BC positively, with 86% saying they would recommend BC to a prospective applicant. BC’s academics generally polled highly as well; in addition, 82% of students responded that they feel a sense of belonging with BC’s community. Perception of on campus services varied, as only half of respondents stated that they were satisfied by BC dining and the housing lottery system, although other services received higher satisfaction rates.

Students were given the option of identifying themselves on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, income level, sexual orientation, and whether or not they are an international student, allowing the IRPA team to parse through the data and better understand the BC experience from the perspective of marginalized groups on campus.

Overall, the survey received a 26% response rate, or a total of 2,417 students, a statistically sufficient sample size. Additionally, the response rate for each of the demographic subgroups was generally reflective of their representation in the student body at large, allowing an analysis of the correlation between their identity and how they perceived BC.

Although the “overall results were generally very positive,” according to Armstrong, there were notable disparities in the responses from members of marginalized groups on campus, who rated their overall experience at BC remarkably lower than the average.

Only 67% of Black students said that they would recommend BC, as opposed to 90% of white students. Additionally, Black students and LGBTQ+ students reported significantly higher rates of unfair treatment, and almost half of LGBTQ+ students reported often feeling lonely or isolated. Furthermore, low income students were also much more likely to report that they did not feel a sense of belonging in the BC community.

While the initial survey results have already been released, the team is still working on processing the “second level analysis” of the data, seeking to gain further insights into the different stories the numbers can tell and to possibly uncover some new, illuminating trends in the responses.

Additionally, Armstrong stated that next week, the “Diversity Steering Committee will review the results and propose actionable initiatives,” determining what short terms steps are feasible, and what other initiatives deserved long-term investment.

The official executive summary of the survey is available for students and community members to take a more in-depth look at the numbers on BC's website.

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