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Orient student survey shows strong disapproval of Athletics and College House system

December 8, 2017

This week the Orient sent out a revised version of its biannual approval ratings survey, now called the Bowdoin Orient Student Survey, which asks students about their opinions on campus institutions. The survey was sent to all 1,816 students and yielded 429 responses.

This semester, the scope of the survey was broadened with new questions on demographics, academics and lifestyle in an effort to gather more information about the student experience and to understand how several factors influence approval ratings. Previous versions of the survey included only general demographic questions along with the approval rating for each institution. This semester, the Orient added questions about political beliefs, academics, extracurricular activities and drug and alcohol use.

Data visualizations made with help from Gideon Moore, Hannah Donovan and Drew Macdonald.

Students continue to love Dining Services, the faculty, Safety and Security and the Libraries, disapprove most of Athletic Department, Counseling Services, Judicial Board and SAFC.

When compared with previous semesters’ approval results, respondents more frequently chose the “No Opinion” option. Unlike in previous semesters, “No Opinion” was the center, default option in this semester’s survey, making it easier for students to choose “No Opinion.” This survey error may have skewed results towards a trend of respondents having fewer opinions when compared to previous semesters.

Keeping in mind this potential source of bias, the number of students who expressed approval of many institutions on campus decreased significantly from last semester.

  • Rose’s approval rating fell 10 percentage points,
  • the Orient’s approval rating fell 20 percentage points
  • the Judicial Board’s approval rating fell 23 percentage points
  • BSG’s approval rating fell more than 35 percentage points to a rating of 38 percent, an all-time low for BSG in the seven years the Orient has been conducting the survey.
  • BSG president Irfan Alam ’18 received an approval rating of 47 percent, down 23 percentage points from the approval rating of the BSG president last spring.

However, the percentage of respondents who disapproved of each institution fell as well.

Students who use alcohol more frequently are more likely to approve of the College House system.

  • Most respondents reported using alcohol more than once a week.

The Class of 2019 disapproves of their class council more than others.

  • A number of posts on Bowdoin Class Confessions have mentioned this disapproval.
  • 2019 council members posted a response in the class Facebook group, admitting some campaign promises like weekly snack nights were unrealistic but announcing a number of initiatives and events they had planned.

The Athletic Department received the lowest approval rating among all institutions in the survey but the opinions of athletes were significantly more positive than those of non-athletes.

The Orient has published the data that formed these and other visualizations on the file sharing site Github. Visit github.com/BowdoinOrient/boss-survey-f17-data to see the data behind these graphs in .csv form.


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  1. ConcernedBowdoinSupporter says:

    “The Class of 2019 disapproves of their class council more than others.”

    Someone should check this table, as the data currently shown on github does not appear to support it:

    • James Little says:

      Thank you, we’ve noticed the error and have fixed it. The data displayed in the graph was correct; the data on Github was not.

  2. ConcernedBowdoinSupporter says:

    ‘The Athletic Department received the lowest approval rating among all institutions in the survey but the opinions of athletes were significantly more positive than those of non-athletes.”

    Based on the data on github, of the 312 non-athletes who responded to this survey question, only 43% expressed an opinion on the Athletic Department, with 41% expressing approval and 59% expressing disapproval. On the other hand, among athletes with an opinion, the opinions were 82% favorable vs. 22% unfavorable. In the future, it would be helpful to know if the disgruntled non-athletes actually had a negative experience with the athletic department or if these 78 individuals were merely expressing an opinion as a part of Bowdoin’s social justice warriors’ war on student athletes. After all, if nearly one fifth of the student population that chose to answer this survey votes, on principle, against the department that supports student athletes, I would want to know that. How else do you determine if the problem lies with a poorly functioning athletic department or with an unhealthy student environment?

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