Survey Gets to the Heart of Colgate Students

Advertisements urging students to complete the Colgate Campus Life Survey can be found everywhere on campus. A remake of a similar study conducted in 2003, the Campus Life Survey has been significantly revamped to gauge all levels of student life on campus. The Colgate-specific survey, which can be taken online at, will reward all participants with a coupon for a free slice of pizza at New York Pizzeria, as well as enter them for various other prizes, including Nintendo Wii’s. The real reward, however, will be how the survey is ultimately used by administration, students and faculty alike to dictate future campus policies.

In 2003, Associate Professor of Sociology Carolyn Hsu and Assistant Professor of Psychology Landon Reid conducted their first Campus Life Survey of the Colgate University student population. The study, which looked mainly at academic and racial climates, yielded useful data that was used by the Board of Trustees and administration in guiding new policies, such as the Broad Street Initiative. As six years have passed since the first study was taken, the new one will pose many new questions to get a better picture of the life of a current Colgate student.

This year’s Campus Life Survey will look at the academic, social, religious, health and racial climates on campus, along with the basic questions such as major, sports affiliation and gender. The goal is to be able to identify connections between different student groups, and to hopefully use that information to guide new policies and student interests. The results will lead researchers to answer questions such as, “Do males or females feel safer in the classroom?” or, “Do certain minority groups feel alienated socially?”

Students should expect to see three different surveys over the course of this semester. Two, which are nationally administered surveys, will simply direct results to Colgate after they are complied. The third, which is our own Campus Life Survey, will be completely controlled by Colgate researchers, a feature that Hsu argues will greatly help in making the survey Colgate-specific and in answering related questions afterwards.

“What is special about this survey is that it belongs to Colgate; it’s being done here at Colgate, which means we have access to the whole thing,” Hsu said. “We’re trying to make this study cover everything that we could think of to find out every aspect …of the student’s experience here at Colgate.”

The survey is available online for students to take over a period of three weeks this month. Hsu and Reid project that it should take no more than 20 minutes to answer the questions. Much of what is new on the survey comes as a result of what students who participated in the 2003 Survey wanted to know more about.

“Many of these questions were often a response to concerns that were raised by students,” Reid said. “For example, [students] reflecting on their experience noted that they felt like particular segments of the Colgate student body’s experience weren’t necessarily represented or reflected. And so, we took all that into account when the survey instrument was revised and updated.”

Reid and Hsu also stressed the importance of participation on this survey.

“This is only going to be useful if people take the survey,” Hsu said.

The researchers made an effort to target small groups, but these groups will not have any influence if they do not participate in the survey.

“We cannot stress enough how this survey is not going to be shoved in a drawer and ignored,” Hsu said. “The administration is taking this incredibly seriously.”

The results, which the survey team projects to be fully complied by the fall term, will be used by the administration and Board of Trustees to understand student life at Colgate and to make policy changes accordingly. Students and faculty will also have access to the data should they want to find out information on certain groups. If participation is high enough to adequately represent the student body, the researchers feel that the survey could be a powerful tool.

“This is for us, by us,” Reid said. “This will be the document that administrators, students and faculty will turn to for the next five years.”