Senate discusses Student Conference Committee Survey findings

BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20

This week’s Senate meeting, held the evening of Tuesday, March 5 in the Blanchard Great Room, focused mainly on the data results from the Student Conference Committee (SCC) survey taken by the student body last semester. Student co-chairs of the committee, Jackie Rich ’21 and Lila Oren-Dahan ’20, presented to the senators.

According to an email sent to the student body last semester, “The SCC survey asks questions based on the student experience, looking at comfort on and around campus, incidences of bias, and what students want to tell the Board of Trustees.”

This year, 1,196 students participated, about 56 percent of the student population. Student participation was relatively even across class years, but the highest number of respondents came from the class of 2022.

The survey results were divided into seven categories: community and dialogue, incidence of bias, department satisfaction and feedback, residential life, health and wellness, campus news and student employment.

Addressing responses in the community and dialogue category, data showed that respondents tend to find academic settings more accepting than informal settings during student dialogue.

“The two places people feel most discomfort are organizing inclusive campus events and discussing diversity issues on campus,” Oren-Dahan said.

Questions in this category also discussed student comfort levels in approaching their academic advisors. While the majority of respondents expressed comfort when approaching faculty, nearly 20 percent of students reported feeling uncomfortable going to their academic advisor for academic support.

Progressing through the presentation, the data showed that 80 percent of students did not report having faced incidents of biases on campus. In addition, students are generally satisfied with academic departments themselves, though respondents did ask for more ways to anonymously give feedback within departments.

In terms of health and wellness, the biggest source of stress that respondents reported back on was academics.

“Over 50 percent of respondents mentioned academics in some way, with time management and social life following that,” said Oren-Dahan.

When dealing with stress, 27 percent of respondents sought counseling, nine percent sought faculty support and nine percent looked to peers for overall support.

When it came to campus news, 25 percent of students do not feel well informed. For those who do receive news on campus, the majority state it comes from resources such as Facebook, NewsFlush postings and the weekly student programs “word-out” letter.

The final topic Rich and Oren-Dahan covered was student employment, which included not only employment issues but also general financial issues for students. While the majority of respondents work on campus and reported being satisfied with their hours, the most concerning results of the data are the sacrifices students are making due to financial restraints.

“Almost 25 percent of respondents have had to forego menstrual or hygiene products at least once because of financial concerns,” said Oren-Dahan. “In addition, 30 percent of respondents stated having to forego prescriptions and medications.”

Another concerning statistic found in the results was that over 50 percent of respondents have had to forego a physical education (P.E.) or academic class at least once due to financial concerns. Some P.E. classes come with a fee of $25, and others cost even more.

“A big theme from the results of the survey is that students are uncomfortable with having certain conversations on campus, but this can jumpstart those hard conversations,” Rich said.

With the survey nearly 100 pages long, the co-chairs both admitted that there is much more information from this survey that is important to understand. However, due to time constraints and length of the survey, certain topics were chosen to be presented at senate. Students interested in accessing survey data can email the Student Conference Committee to receive a data request form.

Senate then finished with a short town hall debrief and working group conversations. Senate will resume the Tuesday after spring break on March 19.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that “students who would like to see the full data report from the survey can email the Student Conference Committee for those results.” This is incorrect and has been changed in the article.

Mount Holyoke News

Mount Holyoke News , Blanchard Campus Center, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA, 01075