During this academic year, how often did you drink hard alcohol? Have sex that you later regretted? Eat breakfast? These questions appeared among 106 others on the 2010 Student Health & Wellness Survey, which is currently underway.
According to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, this is the third time the survey has been administered. It has been conducted since 2002 on an every four-year basis.
This year is the first in which the survey was administered to all students. Previously, the survey was sent to a 100-student sample from each class. As of Wednesday, 776 students had responded out of 1,777.
The survey was made available to all students because of Foster and others' convictions that students could benefit by reflecting on the questions.
"We just thought, 'you know what? It's a good survey for people to contemplate their responses,' and so we administered it to all students," said Foster.
"I think sometimes surveys can give people a chance to reflect on things that they may not otherwise just sit around and talk about," said Director of the Women's Resource Center and Alcohol Team (A-Team) Co-Chair Meadow Davis.
Over the course of these eight years, the survey has remained largely unchanged.
"We've pretty much kept in all the questions that have been asked the last two times we've administered it," said Foster.
This consistency is important in terms of generating data that can be tracked over the eight-year spread.
"We didn't want to lose the ability to make comparisons over time so we didn't want to get into tinkering with some of the language that might mean the 2006 survey question was substantively different from the 2010 survey question and therefore we couldn't really make a comparison," said Foster.
However, new questions were added to the sections regarding alcohol and sex this time around.
"Where we really made changes, I would say, would be in the area of alcohol, we asked more questions than we have in the past," said Foster.
"We did do some significant changes to the sex section and the alcohol section," said Davis.
In both areas, the survey contained a greater variety of possible responses. For instance, while the section on alcohol previously identified binge drinking as "five or more drinks in a sitting" the current edition of the survey allows students to check "five to 10", "10 to 20" or "20+" as measures of how many drinks they imbibe.
This expansion of the survey was prompted by Foster and others' acknowledgment that the original question was too general to gauge people's actual alcohol intake.
"We, through lots of conversations with students, found that some people are drinking considerably more than that (five drinks) so we wanted to get a sense of how much people are actually drinking," said Foster.
To further fine tune the results and get a better sense of drinking on campus, this survey includes the first qualitative response zone in which students are asked to describe their perception of the drinking culture at Bowdoin, and write what they would change about it.
"A-team was really interested in getting a sense of the overall drinking culture," said Davis. "The students on the team talk a lot qualitatively about what their friends do, but [we] wanted to make sure that we are getting a real idea of the entire campus."
Foster expects the results of the survey to be available at the end of the semester. Though previous health surveys have not been made public, Foster said, "I don't know why they wouldn't be."
The data and qualitative responses will be used by several different departments, including Health Services, Counseling Services, A-Team, and SMART, to assess existing programs and to develop new ones.
"Then the idea is, I think, to put the data in front of the people who are in a position to think about programming, to think about policy, to think about protocol," said Foster.
We were interested in "really being able to look at all of those different components, and then develop programming that targets what we have learned from that," said Davis of the A-Team and SMART.