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Clear majority of students say they will not enroll in a remote fall semester, Orient survey shows

May 1, 2020

Over 70 percent of non-senior students said they will not enroll in a remote fall semester, according to the Orient’s biannual approval rating survey. However, students overwhelmingly support Bowdoin’s handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Last week, the Orient sent out the survey—the Bowdoin Orient Student Survey, which asks for student opinions about various campus institutions. The survey was sent to all 1,970 students and yielded 615 responses (31.2 percent).

In addition to the survey’s regular questions about demographics, academics, beliefs and approval of campus institutions, this semester’s survey included several questions about student life during the COVID-19 pandemic and Bowdoin’s transition to virtual learning. Members of the first-year, sophomore and junior classes were also asked to give their opinions on potential plans for the College’s operation next semester, official versions of which have yet to be announced.

Reflecting an abnormal time in students’ lives, survey responses yielded markedly different results compared to prior years. Of the 26 campus institutions surveyed, all but three—the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs, the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs and the Health Center—received higher approval and lower disapproval ratings than last semester. Far more students reported being unhappy in this semester’s survey; 60.2 percent of respondents said they were happy, down over 20 points from 82.1 percent last semester. Yet, 64.1 percent of respondents think the world will be a better place in 25 years, up from 55 percent last semester.

Percentage of respondents who reported being happy

The Current COVID-19 Crisis

Survey results show that many students are connected to someone, such as a family member or friend, who has been confirmed positive for COVID-19. Four students reported that they had been confirmed positive for the virus.

Have any of the following been confirmed positive for COVID-19?

A large majority of students, 85 percent, think the College is handling the COVID-19 crisis well or very well. Still, many expressed discontent with their virtual classes. A majority of students, 56.2 percent, said they are dissatisfied with their remote classes, of which around 16 percent reported being extremely dissatisfied. A vast majority of students, 86.1 percent, approve of the College’s switch to a universal Credit/No Credit grading system.

How well do you think Bowdoin is handling the COVID-19 crisis?

Percentage of students satisfied with remote classes vs. class year

How good is your Wi-Fi?

Do you approve of the universal Credit/No Credit grading system?

Responses show that students are having differing experiences with virtual learning. Answers vary on how many of a students’ classes met synchronously. A plurality of students (39.5 percent) report having two classes meet synchronously; 8.5 percent of respondents answer that they had no classes meeting synchronously, while 9.6 percent report four or more synchronous classes. Around 58 percent of respondents said they prefer synchronous classes.

Do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous class formats?

The majority of students, 55.6 percent, feel they could not be productive in their current living situation. Around 3 percent feel unsafe.

Do you feel like you can be productive in your current living situation?

Do you feel safe in your current living situation?

Looking to the Future

The College has yet to decide what next semester will look like and has not yet announced if students will be back on campus and if so, when the semester will begin. The Orient’s survey asked non-senior students (members of the Classes of 2021, 2022 and 2023) about their opinions on the College’s options.

Less than one third of students, 29.3 percent, said they would enroll in the fall semester if it were to be held entirely remotely. Around half of respondents said they would take the semester off, while others would plan to take a year off or find another alternative. Should the fall semester be held online, over 97 percent of respondents think tuition should be reduced. A low enrollment in the fall semester and reduced tuition would exacerbate the College’s financial challenges incurred from the cost of the crisis and lower spendable returns from the endowment.

If the fall semester were to be held entirely online, would you…

More than three-quarters of respondents prefer having the next semester delayed until January with a second semester in the summer over a remote fall semester.

Approval of Campus Institutions

Approval ratings of campus institutions increased virtually across the board from last semester.

President Clayton Rose received the largest increase in approval, from 42.5 percent last semester to 60.5 percent this semester, and his disapproval score decreased. Approval of Information Technology and Class Councils each increased by over 10 percent.

President Clayton Rose’s Approval Ratings

The faculty and Dining Services continue to receive the highest approval ratings—95.7 percent and 95.6 percent respectively—with the faculty edging Dining Services after several semesters of trailing closely behind.

Brunswick Police Department again received the lowest approval rating of 16.3 percent with 50.3 percent of respondents disapproving.

Career Exploration and Development (CXD) Approval vs Class Year

Percentage of respondents who think the world will be better in 25 years

Data and graphs compiled by Gwen Davidson and Steven Xu.


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  1. Current Student says:

    In the future you should measure the approval rating of the Dean of Student Affairs. I’d like to see the perception of Janet Lohmann during these times.

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