Distributed April 25, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Office of Campus Life begins study of Campus Climate Assessment

The Office of Campus Life and Student Services at Brown University has received results of a campuswide assessment it commissioned early this year. That study, prepared by Mcguire Associates Inc. of Boston, gathered information and opinions from 45 percent of undergraduates, 31 percent of graduate students and 39 percent of medical students via the Web during February.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Undergraduate students at Brown University report a very high level of overall satisfaction with their campus experience, according to an independent survey conducted in February by Mcguire Associates Inc. of Boston. More than 90 percent of current undergraduates say they would choose Brown again.

“Although that broad-brush positive result was very satisfying,” said Janina Montero, vice president for campus life and student services, “we are looking to the assessment to identify areas of campus life where significant work needs to be done. We are just beginning to analyze those results.”

The Campus Climate Assessment, commissioned by the Office of Campus Life and Student Services, used a Web-based questionnaire to gather information from 3,163 Brown students, including a 45-percent response rate from the undergraduate student body, 31 percent from graduate students, and 39 percent from medical students. Online data gathering was conducted Feb. 1-25, 2001, using a Web server controlled by Mcguire Associates to ensure confidentiality. All respondents were verified as Brown students, and only fully completed questionnaires were counted.

In addition to providing information about themselves (race, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, financial aid status, etc.), students were asked to respond to 83 statements, using a seven-point scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Most responses indicated satisfaction at a level between 5 and 7.

“Student participation in the study was extraordinarily good, so the assessment is rich with information and will support a great many studies,” Montero said. “Our goal was to identify strengths and weaknesses of the University’s programs and services and to better understand the factors that are important in students’ overall satisfaction with campus life. I believe we have important information with the new data.”

Montero received a preliminary report last week. Further studies on satisfaction levels for selected subpopulations are being prepared, including analyses for students of color and students who receive financial aid. Additional reports for graduate and medical students are also underway, Montero said. On the whole, graduate and medical students reported lower levels of satisfaction than undergraduates.

Several factors appeared to have no statistically significant influence on overall student satisfaction, Montero said. These include gender, semester level, age, sexual orientation, concentration, disability status, religious affiliation and citizenship.

Preliminary information about the undergraduate experience

  • Student involvement in campus life correlates positively with overall satisfaction. Students reporting the highest levels of satisfaction were also the most likely, within the last two semesters, to have spoken in class; had a nontrivial conversation with a person of a different race; spoken with a professor outside class about academic issues; attended a theater or musical performance; attended an athletic event; or attended a cultural awareness event regarding a group different from their own.
  • Socio-economic factors are highly important in overall satisfaction with life at Brown. Students who did not apply for financial aid rated their satisfaction significantly higher than students who applied for and received aid. Students with modest financial means perceived Brown to be less supportive of them and of all students; students from affluent families perceived Brown to be highly supportive of all students.
  • Students perceive Brown to be most supportive of: political liberals; students from affluent families; white students; student athletes; students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered; Asian or Pacific Islanders; international students; multiracial students; African American students; Latino students.
  • Students perceive Brown to be least supportive of: political conservatives; students of limited financial means.
  • Students reported the highest level of satisfaction with the service quality of: the Swearer Center for Public Service; minority peer counselors; women peer counselors; Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life; resident counselors; Sarah Doyle Women’s Center; Third World Center. (The assessment inquired about 11 services not normally included on University surveys.)
  • Compared with female students, male students are more likely to: concentrate in physical sciences; belong to club sports or recreation groups; be politically conservative or interact with conservatives; say Brown was not their first choice; live in a Greek house; spend fewer hours studying per week.
  • Nearly all groups believe other groups are better supported by Brown. Men believe Brown is more supportive of women; women believe Brown is more supportive of men. Nearly all racial subgroups believe other racial subgroups are better supported than their own. This “grass is greener” perspective is consistent across all groups. Students who appear to be advantaged do not see themselves as having any particular advantage.
  • Student employment can be a factor in overall satisfaction. Although there was not a significant difference in reported satisfaction between students who work for pay and those who do not, students who work more than 15 hours per week report a lower level of satisfaction than students who work fewer than 15 hours. This assessment includes data on students who report working off-campus outside the University’s student employment system.

While the Campus Climate Assessment is a very rich source of information, it is not the only source available to Brown. Montero and her colleagues will also analyze this information in relation to the University’s annual senior survey as well as data reported regularly to national organizations.

A Web-based assessment was an appropriate choice for Brown. “The most recent analyses of Web-based surveys suggest that the level of disclosure is highest, compared with other techniques,” Montero said. “Students are very well versed in Web and e-mail, and being able to complete the questionnaire on their computers and on their own schedule helped increase the ease and level of participation.”

“Certainly, this will be immediately useful and will set an agenda for addressing the most significant elements that lead to greater student satisfaction with their educational experience,” Montero said. “It is the richness of our environment and the degree to which students are intellectually and personally engaged that leads to a satisfying experience.”

A more detailed Campus Climate Assessment will be ready for presentation to the Student Life Committee of the Corporation at its May meeting, Montero said. The Office of Campus Life intends to present results of the study to the campus community soon after classes resume in September.