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Planning Office Will Distribute Surveys

By Christopher M. R. Rezek

The Planning Office started distributing a survey to undergraduates this week asking them to evaluate and comment on their experiences at the Institute.

"This year's survey will ask detailed questions about residential life, athletics, library usage, faculty and peer interactions, clubs and organizations, writing, and cultural activities," said Lydia S. Snover, senior planning officer for institutional research.

The College Student Experience Questionnaire, the survey's official name, was originally developed at Indiana University. The basic survey is eight pages long, followed by 20 questions specifically intended for MIT students.

The last section includes questions about the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and similar topics unique to the MIT undergraduate experience.

Surveys will be distributed directly to the various fraternities, sororities, independent living groups, and dormitories, rather than being sent out through the interdepartmental mail system, as were last year's questionnaires.

Low response rate last year

Last year's survey focused on student satisfaction, gains, harassment, writing, computer usage, and aspects of community life at MIT.

The overall return rate for last year's survey was 20 percent, with women and freshmen disproportionally represented, Snover said.

This is substantially lower than the 42 percent response rate that the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs received for its senior survey in Spring 1994.

"We are considering various incentives for each living group/residence hall" to increase the response rate, Snover said.

The Interfraternity Council is distributing the forms to fraternity presidents to boost both overall response rates and male response rates.

Snover hopes for a higher rate of return for this year's survey. "We would like every undergraduate to complete the survey this year so that we have an even representation of view of all the diverse groups of our undergraduate population," she said.

Task groups use data

Data from last year's survey was used extensively by several task groups, including the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning, the student services re-engineering team, and the dining review working group, Snover said. She expects that this year's data will be similarly distributed to task forces and policy-making bodies.

"Data collected by the Planning Office is available for use [by] offices and groups within MIT, with certain restrictions, of course," Snover said.

In addition to offices obtaining access, students enrolled in the Managerial Psychology Laboratory (15.301) used the data as part of a project.

Results from this year's survey should be available by summer, though the Planning Office will complete a preliminary analysis before making the data accessible to groups, Snover said. "Comparative data [between MIT and other schools taking similar surveys] may take longer and will be subject to greater restrictions [on access] because of MIT's privacy agreements with other schools."