March 14, 2002

Survey Asks Seniors to Look Back

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Following spring break, the Class of 2002 will be asked to complete a survey that will assess their four years on campus and possibly have an impact on campus life for future students.


All seniors received a letter this week stating the purpose and incentives of the survey. They will also receive an e-mail on March 26 with a link to the actual survey website.

“These are people that have invested four years of their time here, and they’re the ones who are in the best position to tell us what life has been like,” said Michael Matier, director of institutional research and planning.

“Our desire is to use this as a means to inform decision making and policy development throughout campus,” he added.

Cornell will conduct the survey along with 31 other institutions in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, which includes all eight Ivy League and several other selective universities. Many of the questions on the survey will be consistent with the other schools; however, Cornell will ask its own unique questions about specific issues on campus.

“There will be a lot of questions asking students about their experiences here at Cornell. Questions will ask about their satisfaction with different kinds of programs, services and the kind of contact they’ve had with other students and the faculty,” said Marne Einarson, a senior research and planning associate in the Division of Planning and Budget.


Some questions about the faculty will involve availability outside of class and general instruction. Seniors will be asked about their future plans and if they intend to continue their education after graduation. Financial aid and anticipated debt load will also be addressed.

“We also ask students about how much they think they have gained in a lot of different areas of skills and knowledge from coming here,” said Einarson.

According to Einarson, many questions will be concerning the student’s major so that information can be gathered for specific departments and future programs.

“There is also a series of questions that … will attempt to hone in on a few things that are closer to home here. … [There are] questions that have to do with the period of time between 4:30 and 7:30 in the academic day, about whether there should be classes during that time,” said Matier.

Evening prelims and the plans for West Campus will be focused on as well.

“There are also two questions that we asked last fall to incoming freshman about the possibility of course work related to diversity and multiculturalism,” said Matier.

While they have seen preliminary results from that survey, Matier and Einarson decided to ask the same two questions of seniors because of their four years of experience with diversity issues on campus.

The University last conducted a senior survey in 1998, and according to Matier, the information received has helped fuel discussion on several subjects.

“There is a large number of questions in the main body of the survey that are exactly the same as from 1998, and we’re going to be able to see what kind of trend may exist in a variety of things,” said Matier.

The 1998 survey indicated that for overall satisfaction with their undergraduate experience, School of Hotel Administration students ranked highest while those in the College of Art, Architecture and Planning were the least satisfied. Some of the services students were most satisfied with, according to the survey, were “library services and facilities” and “campus security.”

Seniors were most unhappy about “pre-major academic advising” and “administration’s responsiveness to students.”

“There are differences between Cornell and other [universities],” he added. “If we look at the things having to do with general satisfaction, generally what our students tell us is that [they] are satisfied with their experience here, but [the results of] students at some of the other places have a tendency to look even better.”

Some of the past topics to be repeated this year also include advising and interaction with faculty outside of the classroom. In 1998, Hotel students were more likely to find the faculty accessible out of class, while architecture college students were the least. However, the study also indicated that Hotel students spent less time doing “volunteer work.”

Other topics such as the plans for North Campus and housing were included in the past to get student input and provide a background for a deeper examination of the issue.

Matier cautioned that although the survey does not have a direct impact on initiating changes, the information gathered has helped to contribute to discussions and debates about student life.

“We have been careful not to characterize the results that come out of the surveys as the final answer about anything,” said Matier, explaining that many students have specific experiences.

“We also have the distinct benefit of not only having our own results, but we have the capacity to be able to compare what the experiences at Cornell are like with what they are like at the institutions that we compete with for students,” said Matier.

Cornell did better than other universities on topics such as “social life on campus” and “nutritional and mathematics courses.” In the category of future plans, Cornellians placed a higher importance on “having a secure and stable future” and less on “working for social change” than students from other universities.

The report also stated, “The prevailing conventional wisdom among Cornell students is that they have to work harder for worse grades … Both ‘overall GPA’ and ‘GPA in the major’ comparisons from this research seem to support the latter part of this notion.”

According to Matier and Einarson, this year students will receive three e-mails reminding them of the survey and will have approximately one month to fill it out.

There will be a raffle for students returning their surveys. Prizes include an unrestricted $1000 travel certificate from Stone Travel Agency, a Cornell chair and a Palm M105 handheld organizer.

Archived article by Mackenzie Damon