UA Survey Reports on Quality of Student Life
Raymond Louie -- The Tech
John S. Hollywood '96
By Shang-Lin Chuang
Associate News Editor
More than 90 percent of students surveyed by the Undergraduate Association Committee on Student Life consider dormitory overcrowding a problem, according to preliminary results from the Registration Day survey.
The four-page, 125-question "MIT Student Life Survey" was sponsored by the UA committee, chaired by John S. Hollywood '96, and the faculty Committee on Student Affairs. Issues addressed included housing, food services, student resources, medical care, and general student life issues, Hollywood said.
"The basic purpose of the survey is to find out what undergraduates feel about these MIT services, and to use what the students tell us to go to the administration and represent the student body," Hollywood said.
"I think the fact that we passed out 2000 surveys and got back  was very impressive," he said. "Considering the length of the survey and the fact that students were willing to fill it out argues against the apathy that some believe the students have."
Students support new dormitory
Of 331 randomly selected surveys tabulated for the preliminary results, 42 percent of respondents rated overcrowding as a serious or very serious problem, Hollywood said. Over two thirds said overcrowding adversely affects academic performance to some extent, he said.
Only 7.9 percent said overcrowding was not a problem and 4.2 percent said it had affected academic performance positively, according to the survey results.
To eliminate what the survey described as "painful" overcrowding, more than 80 percent of the sampled responses indicated support for building a new undergraduate dormitory.
However, 27 percent were against the idea of making Ashdown House undergraduate, 67 percent were opposed to moving all undergraduates to west campus, and 85 percent were against establishing an all-freshman dormitory.
About two-thirds said that MIT involves students in its decision-making processes poorly or very poorly, and about the same number also disapproved of how well MIT informs students about pending decisions. Almost half of those surveyed were not familiar with the Institute's interpersonal problem-solving resources.
Results sent to administration
These preliminary results have been distributed to President Charles M. Vest, Provost Mark S. Wrighton, and Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith. The Department of Housing and Food Services, the Medical Department, and other involved offices and departments have also received the results, Hollywood said.
"The first thing we need to do is finish compiling all 720 surveys that were collected and write a report with the exact numbers and demographic groups, which will take about another month" Hollywood said. "Then we will publicize the results and make recommendations for student life based on those results."
Hollywood said he is optimistic that the administration will take the results seriously. "We will work as hard as we can to make sure good things come out of the survey," he said.
"We need the data collected from the big numerical surveys, but it is time for us to move on," he said. "We are going to be visiting and talking to students in various living groups individually instead of throwing papers at their faces."
Few support Aramark
The contract of Aramark, MIT's food service provider, is currently up for review. Because of concerns over cost and food quality, only four percent of those surveyed favored renewing the contract. Alternatives included replacing Aramark with another food service contractor, having more delivery services that can be paid for by the MIT card, and greater student management of dining services.
Sixty-three percent favored giving franchises such as Burger King direct control over their on-campus sites and 80 percent opposed mandatory meal plans in order to keep the dining halls open.
Half of those surveyed favored the current implementation of the MIT Card. But 45 percent were either opposed or strongly opposed to the idea of putting electronic entry devices on Institute buildings.
Fifteen percent of those surveyed had a negative view of the the Medical Department. Twelve percent have been informed that they have been misdiagnosed or mistreated. In addition, 14 percent of the students said that they would avoid the department's services whenever possible.