Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We want your money, and you want to give it to us!

Many of you probably got the recent student rec/health survey. Did anyone else find it a little biased? There was no room for comments and the questions seemed pretty loaded to us.

Considering that the library, Health and Rec, Information Technology (IT), something called PIRG, and a "Green Team" are all asking for new student fees next year (which could add up to over $150/semester by our calculations), it might be worth your time to take a look.

Here is a guest submission from a Sallygradstudent reader on the survey. Let's call him Joegradstudent:


Like many other students, I received an e-mail from Melissa Vito, Vice President for Student Affairs, asking me to take a survey about the proposed Health and Recreation Fee that we heard about last semester. I’ve attached a Microsoft Word document containing the e-mail and the survey.

The survey is disturbingly biased and seems to be deliberately designed to convince students to say they support the fee. If you’ve never been involved in designing a survey or writing appropriately neutral survey questions, you can look at any of the hundreds of books and websites that discuss how to insure the validity and accuracy of survey results. Here’s an example from a website that I chose randomly from Google search results, contrasting a bad leading question with a good neutral version:


Bad Question: Leading

Good Question: Neutral

Do you think that the new cafeteria lunch menu offers a better variety of healthy foods than the old one?
( ) Yes
( ) No
( ) No Opinion

How do you feel about the new cafeteria lunch menu compared to the old one?
( ) The new menu offers a better variety of healthy foods
( ) The old menu offers a better variety of healthy foods
( ) The selections are similar
( ) No opinion

Applying a similar analysis to the first question from Melissa Vito’s survey:

The survey asks, “…indicate how supportive you are of … continued access to quality, low cost health care…” and your choices are:

( )Very supportive

( )Moderately supportive

( )Slightly supportive

( )Not supportive

( )No opinion

A more neutral version might look something like this:

1.“Do you support a fee to continue the current health care system” with choices:

( )Yes

( )No

( )No Opinion

2.“What is the quality of the current health care system?” with choices:

( )High

( )Medium

( )Low

( )No Opinion

3.“What is the cost of the current health care system?” with choices:

( )High

( )Medium

( )Low

( )No Opinion

Many of the questions in Melissa Vito's survey are just as biased and leading. Additionally, as you work your way through the survey, if you indicate that you don’t support the fee, you’re then taken to a section of the survey that is nothing less than a sales pitch that tries to change your mind.

In the past, I’ve always been surprised when the University has claimed that surveys indicate that students want to increase fees. If all of the “surveys” are like this one, I think I understand now.

This survey is significantly flawed and we should object to any attempt by the University to claim that the results of this survey are valid. We can probably also find a well-credentialed faculty member or two who would be willing to write an analysis of the survey. Finally, it would also be interesting to look at some of the other surveys the University has used in the past to support increasing fees and tuition.

Survey Student Fees

Don't forget to write to your GPSC or ASUA representative and tell them what you are and are not willing to pay for!



1 comment:

Evan said...

We generally avoid tooting our own horn, but this is an issue that the Lamp has been on top of this issue for over a year (!) now. Some highlights:

http://www.desertlamp.com/?p=130 - Back from September 2008, when everyone still thought it was the SAF; brought up the principal-agent problem and lack of outside polling professionals.

http://www.desertlamp.com/?p=1064 - First survey run-through from February 2009; introduction of the term "erevnocracy."

http://www.desertlamp.com/?p=1184 - Got access to the full survey documents and results; a voluminous parsing ensued.

http://www.desertlamp.com/?p=2021 - Shorter parsing of a subsequent SSF survey; exhaustion and ennui set in.

http://www.desertlamp.com/?p=3293 - In which we point out that, from a statistics standpoint, the Faculty "satisfaction" poll is no different than the SSF polls. Naturally, hypocrisy ensued.

http://www.desertlamp.com/?p=4505 - The write-up of the Health/Rec survey, from 1/17/10. This also included a link to a zipped folder, containing screenshots of all the poll questions.

Mostly, this is just trying to sucker another site into adopting "erevnocracy" as a term.