Do you know how many Seattle University students use tobacco related products? Did you know that SGSU is working on making gender inclusive bathrooms? Or how much value students put on where their tuition dollars are going?
The answers to all of these questions and more were revealed this week in the results of the Seattle U State of the Undergraduate Student Survey. SGSU wants to hear student voices. And in an effort to do so, they created an online survey for students to give feedback on everything from financial transparency to gender inclusivity.
38% of students responded.
52.1% feel a strong sense of school identity.
83.6% want to know where the tuition money is going.
This is not the first year that SGSU put together a State of the Undergraduate Student Survey, but there were key changes made to the survey in hopes of increasing student response rates and improving the quality of student feedback.
The success of the revisions are demonstrated by student participation, SGSU reported that 38 percent of the student body completed the survey. Although that is a far cry from the ideal 100 percent turnout, the fact that it is a major increase from prior years is key to increasing student participation in student government.
On Monday night, President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J., Vice President for Student Development Michele Murray, and Student Body President Eric Chalmers spoke at a forum to answer student questions about the survey and discuss some of the more interesting results. Full results of the survey will be presented to the student body in March and the forum was filmed and is available to students.
The three panelists started off the forum by addressing what they found to be the most surprising or important results of the survey and explaining how they will react to these findings. Sundborg said that he was surprised to find out how many Seattle U students self-identify as having a disability—227 students, according to the survey. He also mentioned that the reported lack of knowledge about resources for victims of sexual assaults is alarming. Especially, as Murray added, since Seattle U has so many resources to offer in regard to this issue.
Another issue that was brought up by all three panelists during the forum was financial concern.
Murray explained how the results of the survey might affect current planning.
“We are always working on three points,” Murray said. “The first is ensuring that the students have an integrated experience and that we are doing our part and partnering with our colleagues in Mission and Ministry and Academic Affairs…The second thing is ensuring a pride in this institution—that you have a way as students to really engage with this institution in a meaningful way. The third is making sure that we are providing excellence in our services and our programs. The survey results will really help guide us.”
Another topic that Sundborg discussed was that of school identity. According to the survey, students ranked an average of 5.21 out of 10.0 on the question: “During your time at Seattle University, how strongly have you felt that there is a strong sense of ‘school identity?’”
“I think we’ve got a challenge,” said Sundborg in regards to the student response on identity. “We’re Jesuit, we’re urban, we’re edgy, we’re engaged in service, we’re free, we’re inclusive. And yeah we’re proud of that, that’s great. But somehow that doesn’t quite stack up very well against…a sense of fun, spirit, and a university-wide community [that other universities have]. It’s one thing to have 150 different communities at Seattle U, but I don’t think it adds up to an identity. So I am still in search of the Seattle University identity.”
Other important issues brought up at the forum included financial questions, such as transparency of finances and how tuition money is spent. Students who took the survey answered an average of 8.86 in response to the question: “How important is it to you to know where your tuition dollars are going?” Sundborg addressed this issue and noted that increasing financial transparency is a priority for the administration, but is made difficult by the complicated nature of finances.
Another interesting part of the survey regarded cultural competency. Chalmers spoke on the issue of gender inclusion.
“Last year we partnered with RHA,” Chalmers said. “We passed a resolution endorsing gender-inclusive restrooms across the university and RHA passed a resolution within their own assembly about the need for a gender -inclusive housing policy.”
Sundborg mentioned that some students have expressed concern about too much focus on gender-inclusion here at Seattle U and Chalmers agreed but added that the survey demonstrated that many students would appreciate moving toward more gender inclusion.
“We can take steps to address that. For me… cultural competency means understanding all of the issues that are within the culture of the university and the community itself. Perhaps…a bit more education on this issue as well as many others needs to be done by SGSU,” Chalmers said.
The forum itself had a good student turnout. At least 40 students attended the event in Campion Ballroom. The students had different reasons for coming, but all sought to learn about the survey results and what SGSU and the administration plans to do with the results.
“I’m a concerned student,” said Peter King, a student who attended the forum on Monday night. “I like to know what’s going on. And I think it’s good to know what’s going on. I’d like to see the school improve student voice – to get students engaged and interested.”
King mentioned that he is excited about the improvements made to the survey and is glad that SGSU is interested in hearing student opinions. He pointed out that subtle biases can be found in the way that the questions are asked.
“But these are minor things,” King said. “I think the fact that they’re doing it in the first place is fantastic.”
“I’m here because I thought that it was an interesting survey and I want to find out about the results,” said Seth Walker, another student who attended the forum. Walker said that he would like to see SGSU put more emphasis on educating Seattle U students about sustainability.
“Seattle U is great about including composting and recycling bins, but a lot of my friends still don’t know about composting and recycling,” Walker said. “Education can’t be reinforced too much.”