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Undergrad Survey Releases First Stats

By Christine R. Fry

NEWS EDITOR

Fifty-six percent of seniors who responded to a March survey said they were “very satisfied” with the athletic facilities on campus, compared with only eight percent of seniors in a survey last year -- before the September opening of the $55 million Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center.

The survey, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, was administered in March on the Web to students enrolled as undergraduates during the Spring 2003 semester.

The office has begun preparing initial results from the survey. Comparisons of MIT responses to those at other schools, and a more extensive analysis of MIT’s results, were not yet available.

Forty percent of undergraduates who responded to a survey of current students rated their overall educational experience at MIT as “excellent” and almost 47 percent rated their experience as “good.”

Lydia S. Snover, the provost’s assistant for institutional research, said that in the past, MIT had not been anxious to survey the student body on their satisfaction. But once MIT finally administered a survey, she said, students turned out to be as happy as students at other schools.

28 percent had more than 5 drinks

Twenty-eight percent of students answering a question about binge drinking said they had consumed “five or more alcoholic drinks” on at least one occasion over the previous two weeks.

Sixty-nine percent of students who responded said that they spend 16 or more hours per week on homework. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they spend between five and 15 hours per week socializing.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said that they spend between zero and four hours per week partying, and 26 percent devote no time to partying each week.

Dining better, language worse

Only 25 percent of seniors said they were “very dissatisfied” with MIT’s food services this year, compared with 45 percent of seniors last year, when almost all food on campus came from Aramark Corp.

Snover said that at most schools, food services are poorly rated by students.

“We’ve made significant progress,” said Richard D. Berlin III, the director of campus dining. “I’m very encouraged by the progress that we’re making.”

Berlin said that the next year will bring a new dining facility in the Stata Center, the new computer science building. He said that he hopes this will improve dining options on the east side of campus.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said that their foreign language skills have weakened since they first arrived at college and 35 percent of the respondents said that there has been no change.

Robert P. Redwine, dean for undergraduate education, said that it is understandable that students may be frustrated, but that it is unlikely that a foreign language requirement would be instituted.

“The balance we’ve always faced is not to have too many requirements,” Redwine said.

Survey looks at all aspects of life

The undergraduate survey questioned students on all aspects of undergraduate life, including classroom experience, faculty interaction, interracial interactions, and academic experiences.

Snover said that they also added MIT-specific questions about topics such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and environmental conservation measures at MIT.

Snover said that she tried to gather survey questions from many different offices and departments at MIT to reduce the number of surveys given to students.

The survey was not administered to find specific problems at MIT to change, Snover said.

“They’re not going to reduce your homework on the basis of this survey,” she said. “We don’t go into this with an agenda.”

The purpose of the survey was “to understand what [undergraduate] life is about” and to determine “whether we’re meeting their needs and expectations,” Snover said.

Of the 4,066 registered undergraduates, 43 percent responded to the survey.

“For MIT, [the response rate] is great,” said Gregory A. Harris, the provost’s office’s data analyst.

As a reward for filling out the survey, 197 students were randomly chosen to receive a $25 gift certificate for Amazon.com, TechCASH, or the Coop. Additionally, five of these students were chosen to have a tour of the Stata Center construction site and eight were chosen to have lunch with Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 and Redwine.

MIT was one of several schools to run the survey, developed by the Consortium on the Financing of Higher Education. The consortium is made up of 31 universities including MIT, Harvard University, Wellesley College, Northwestern University, and Bryn Mawr College. The purpose of the consortium is to conduct research on institutional and academic policies and other topics that are of interest to the member universities.