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School E-mail Surveys: Why Students Send them Straight to the Trash Can and What is Being Lost

By Michael Margavitch, Columnist

They sit unread in many Hofstra students' email accounts: the surveys with which Residential Programs has been trying to reach out to Hofstra students. These surveys allow students to evaluate their living conditions within the campus residential halls as well as voice their opinions.

            Around 60 questions taking less than 15 minutes of time allow the survey participant to evaluate not only the rooms themselves, but the effectiveness of the Residential Assistants and Residential Directors, the floor, the lounges, the kitchen, the laundry facilities, and the sense of community that students experience. With the different areas explored in this short survey, students have the ability to cause change if they find their current living conditions unsatisfactory.

However, many students do not even make an attempt to look at the email. There are many surveys sent out by various members of the administration. Students may not realize that some of these emails are not the typical time-wasting "how is your experience at Hofstra?" surveys. What could help Residential Programs get a higher number of participants and the ability to collect more data is using the title of "ResLife" or "Residential Programs" rather than having an email sent out by different administration that will likely be ignored by students.

Students may also run from the survey because of personal questions about drug use and alcohol consumption, but honest opinions will not lead to trouble, as the email states, "Your participation in the study is completely voluntary. Please be assured all of your responses are confidential."

            If more students participate, then Residential Programs will not have to create incentives for students to take the survey. One email sent out includes this sentence in the body: "If you complete the survey by February 29, 2012, you may elect to enter our sweepstakes for a chance to win one of ten $5 Lackman gift cards." The reward for participation is not guaranteed, and the entrance of the "sweepstakes" includes more steps beyond the survey. The typical Hofstra student does not have the motivation to complete these extra steps after participating.  Incentive can backfire here as these extra steps may actually annoy and anger students who took the time to help Residential Programs collect data. They may not want to participate in future surveys. 

            To be fair, Residential Programs should not have to concoct these incentives in the first place. If one can improve the conditions in their buildings, why would they not want to participate in a short survey? If students want to continue leaving emails unread and surveys untaken, then they do not have the right to complain.  Apathy leads to continuation rather than change.

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