Armstrong Dives Into Student Experience Survey Results at Student-Admin Forum

Kelli Armstrong—outgoing Vice President of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment (IRPA)—discussed the results of the Student Experience Survey administered last fall, including the areas where Boston College students are satisfied and the areas that were shown to need improvement, at the most recent student-administrator forum on May 6. The forum was hosted by interim Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore and the Undergraduate Government of Boston College.

The University released a summary of the results in April. While The Heights and BC News each reported on the survey’s general findings last month, Armstrong noted that the purpose of the forum was to provide a deeper breakdown of the results.

The survey was taken by 2,417 students: a response rate of 26 percent. The response rate was not as high as IRPA would have liked, Armstrong said, but the sample size was sufficient in terms of demographics, and it was representative of the student body as a whole.

Any sample groups with under 25 members were not reported in order to protect the identities of these students, according to Armstrong.

“We’re still digging into the data, we’re looking at it as deeply as we can,” Armstrong said. “But the important thing for us is to make sure that some of the larger subgroups of students saw what they put into the survey, what they wrote, what they told us.”

Armstrong said that she has met with Associate VIce President of University Communications and University Spokesman Jack Dunn and University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. Leahy encouraged IRPA to get the data out to the BC community and said that BC needed to improve.

Armstrong said that she will be presenting the data to the deans this week. She will also be presenting to the Diversity Steering Committee—a representative group of faculty, staff, and students across the university—who will review the data and propose actionable next steps.

“Those are the immediate next steps at this point, and we’ll be continuing to look at the data over the summer,” she said.

The survey showed that 86 percent of students agree with the statement “I would recommend BC to others.” But breaking down this result by race revealed that white students—who agreed with the statement at a rate of 90 percent—agreed at a significantly higher rate than any subgroup of AHANA+ students. Black or African American students were the least likely to agree with the statement, at a rate of 67 percent.

LGBTQ+ students were 10 percent less likely to agree that they would recommend BC to others than non-LGBTQ+ students. Students from family incomes of below $50,000 were 15 percentage points less likely to agree with the statement than students from family incomes of $150,000 or higher.

Overall, 75 percent of students agreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “If I could start over again, I would choose to go to BC.” But again, there were significant differences revealed when this statistic was broken down by race. White students agreed with this statement at the highest rate—82 percent—while black or African American students agreed with the statement at the lowest rate—48 percent.

LGBTQ+ students were also 11 percentage points less likely to agree that they would choose BC again than non-LGBTQ+ students, and students from family incomes of below $50,000 were 19 percentage points less likely to agree than students from family incomes of $150,000 and over.

More than seven out of 10 students agreed that BC has given them a better understanding of what is different about a Jesuit education and that they have developed a stronger sense of purpose at BC.

Ninety-one percent of respondents indicated that they take time during the week for reflection, 87 percent said that they have participated in volunteer work or community service, 65 percent said that they have attended mass or a faith-based service on campus, and 61 percent said they have participated in a university-sponsored retreat.

The survey asked students to rate the services that BC provides in terms of how important they consider them and how satisfied they are with them. The majority of students said that almost all of the services listed—which included counseling services and the availability of student clubs and organizations—were important and that they were satisfied with these services.

The housing lottery and food options on campus were the two services that the majority of students rated as important but said they were not satisfied with.

Ninety percent of students indicated that they are generally satisfied with the quality of teaching at BC, while 73 percent said that they are usually able to get into the classes they want, and 69 percent said that they have an adviser who cares about them as a person.

Students in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences were generally less satisfied than students in BC’s other three college in their responses about the quality of their academics and faculty.

MCAS students agreed that they were able to get into the classes they want at the lowest rate—70 percent—while Connell School of Nursing Students agreed at the highest rate—89 percent. Satisfaction with advising followed a similar pattern: 90 percent of Nursing students indicated that they have an adviser who cares about them as a person, compared to 64 percent of MCAS students.

The majority of students agreed that BC is a competitive environment, that they are concerned about their physical appearance, that they feel pressure to fit in with their peers, and that alcohol abuse is an issue on campus.

About one third of students said that they feel lonely or isolated often or very often, while about two thirds said that they often or very often feel overwhelmed by all the work they need to do. LGBTQ+ students said that they often feel lonely or isolated at a much higher rate that non-LGBTQ+ students—with nearly half of LGBTQ+ students indicating this to be the case.

More than 100 students wrote that they would like to have more access to counseling services, health services, or other services related to well-being in their open-ended responses.

Students indicated that gender, political views, and race or ethnicity were the most common reasons BC students experience unfair treatment or harassment: 27 percent indicated that they had experienced unfair treatment or harassment because their gender, 20 percent because of their political views, and 18 percent because of their race or ethnicity. More than half of respondents said they had observed unfair treatment or harassment for each of these factors.

Students from families of incomes below $50,000 indicated that they experience unfair treatment or harassment because of their socioeconomic status at a rate of 47 percent—which was 22 percentage points higher than students from incomes of $50,000 to $150,000 and 41 percentage points higher than students from family incomes of over $150,000.

Three quarters of black or African-American students, nearly half of Asian students, and around a third of Hispanic students and students of two or more races indicated that they had experienced unfair treatment or harassment because of their ethnicity, in comparison to 4 percent of white students.

Half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer students said they had experienced unfair treatment because of their sexual orientation, and 70 percent said they had observed such treatment.

Ninety percent of students indicated that they are treated fairly and over 80 percent indicated that they have a group they feel a part of, are accepted for their cultural beliefs, can be themselves, and feel a sense of belonging to the campus community—but students of high financial need consistently agreed less frequently with these statements.

The survey asked students to rate BC on its sense of welcoming, community, safety, and respect. AHANA+ students also consistently gave lower ratings in these categories than white students, as did students of high financial need compared to students of low financial need and LGBTQ+ students compared to non-LGBTQ+ students.

While 95 percent of students agreed that diversity is important to them, seven out of 10 said that their courses include diverse perspectives, and around six out of 10 said that the BC community welcomes open discussions about issues of difference and that they are satisfied with the availability of programming and activities around diversity and inclusion on campus. Thirty-six percent of students said that they believe the campus is diverse.

AHANA+ students were slightly more likely than white students to agree that diversity is important to them, and they were significantly less likely to agree with the latter four statements about diversity. While 74 percent of white students said that their courses include diverse perspectives, only 43 percent of black or African-American students agreed.

Armstrong noted the importance of breaking down the results by demographics, rather than simply presenting the overall results: Because the majority of students are white, presenting only the overall results would essentially be presenting “the white experience,” she said.

“The overall results are generally very positive for this survey, but the whole point of this survey was to make sure that all students at BC are having a strong community and a welcoming experience,” she said. “For those of us that worked on the survey …  it was really important that the students—especially in some of the smaller subgroups—could see that their voices are represented.”

Featured Image by Abby Hunt / Heights Editor

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Abby is the associate news editor and a former copy editor for The Heights. She is the only Heights editor that has seen one of the office mice do a backflip. You can reach her and the rest of the news crew at [email protected]