Survey Shows Survey Matters

Megumi Rierson, staff writer

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If you identify as a Whitman student with a pulse, chances are you’ve received a few emails with links to surveys about the various nuances of the privileged existence that society has so carefully crafted for you. Just recently, surveys released have included the Campus Climate survey that apparently “isn’t” a thinly veiled cover for Divestment Club sign-ups, the Residence Hall surveys with the prize of a free iPad to go along with the one you got for Christmas and the Language Learning Center survey that comes with the prize of no longer receiving emails from the Language Learning Center.

It’s refreshing to see our faculty and administration taking so seriously our experience here at Whitman by taking real action against some of the most pressing issues on campus. Is diversity potentially an issue at Whitman? There’s a survey for it! Is the mascot pretty racist and indicative of difficult oppressive truths we would rather not confront? There’s also a survey for that! Is 2016 a little late to just now be considering names like “The good kind of pioneer, not the racist one” for this paper? Never fear, we have focus groups for that, which are essentially just live surveys!

When asked about this so-called “survey culture” at Whitman, one student said, “I’m honestly not sure who gets all that data or what they do with it, but just taking it made me feel heard,” and heard he was. As the student’s “slightly agrees” and “strongly disagrees” floated off into cyberspace, they provided the framework for another survey asking the same questions about life at Whitman with different wording to justify the lack of further action past survey releases. Democracy is not dead.

When reached for an interview on this topic, Kathy Murray vehemently denied claims that endless surveys that struggle to get 50 percent campus participation are a way for the administration to exhibit trivial concern on inconvenient issues. “We pride ourselves on being a very involved administrative group,” said Murray, “just last week I let Memorial Hall participate in a 100 percent unscripted interaction with some of my constituents in their dining hall.”
I did some investigative work of my own in a few public spaces on campus, and overheard some illuminating depictions of student life. Students’ chief concerns appear to be Bernie Sanders, competing to see who is most hungover, another groundbreaking “Open Letter to Donald Trump” and realizing that whoever held the silver spoon to their mouths their entire lives never taught them how to write a resume. If these topics seem trivial or just “so Whitman,” never fear, because there will be surveys to address them! Whitman College cares deeply about you, the individual student, and will work tirelessly to ensure that all your important concerns are accounted for.

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