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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Are Penn Staters That Happy?

Penn State Live, the administratively-run mouthpiece for Old Main, published the results of one of their “student satisfaction surveys” on Tuesday, which yielded what the administration is calling “positive comments”. Unfortunately, the survey didn’t really delve into anything of meaning, and doesn’t say as much as it might seem on its face.

University Park, Pa. — Penn State student satisfaction is on the rise. The results of the University’s 2007 Student Satisfaction Survey, taken in the spring semester, are proof that faculty and staff at Penn State care about their students and are working to make the college experience a positive one.

“A lot of people say Penn State is so big, how can the students have a voice,” said Andrea Dowhower, senior analyst and director for Student Affairs research and assessment, “but this shows that we care enough to look at the satisfaction of our students. This is the place where they can tell us what they like and don’t like, even at a university of 80,000.”

The University’s satisfaction survey, an instrument that has evolved every year since its inception in the late ’90s, is conducted throughout all Penn State campuses and colleges. Dowhower said it’s a very broad, comprehensive survey that provides more accurate indicators of how the University is doing in a variety of areas.

Students taking the survey were undergraduates chosen at random. Those invited to participate received e-mails, phone calls and prize incentives to participate. Some campuses used extensive publicity to remind students to respond.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied, students averaged about a 4 on their sense of belonging at Penn State on a systemwide comparison. This is up from a 3.6 in 2004. Students rated their formal academic experiences at a 4.2 compared to 2004’s rating of 3.8.

So, after reading through this, a few questions come to mind. Was this survey scientific in nature? Were students that were given incentives to participate or pressured be extended publicity campaigns more likely to respond positively or negatively? Were any questions asked about the sky-high Information Technology Fee? The out of control Student Activity Fee? Ever-rising tuition?

No, of course not. Penn State administrators apparently aren’t here to ask the tough questions, they’re just here to say whatever will justify further increases in our fees for the sake of “building the bureaucracy” and feeding the money machine that is “systemwide” at Penn State.

This survey does not demonstrate excellence. It provides a lesson in nothing at all.

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