Survey misses the mark

The Oct. 23 edition of The Globe and Mail published the results of an online survey compiled by The Strategic Counsel and Uthink, an online youth marketing firm. Drawing its 20,675 respondents from students who agreed to register at a Web site, the survey produced a ranking of universities across the country, solely based upon student opinion.

There are many surveys of student views and satisfaction. York participates in ACUMEN, a survey of all applicants which provides a scientifically solid survey, and participates in the Maclean’s survey, while maintaining doubts about some of their methods. The University surveys its graduates, and most faculties survey their students. In general, York students report a high level of satisfaction.

The sample cannot be considered representative in any way. The survey published in the Globe required students to sign up for a Web site, and there were only 770 respondents from York – less than two per cent of more than 43,000 students.

The survey results also are not representative. The perceptions reported from the sample do not reflect reality in most areas.

The Globe report contains an article on security at York that highlights some of the security issues faced by all large urban institutions. The article does not fully recognize the high priority that York puts on student safety and the extent of its programs.

The fact is, York has a comprehensive 24/7 security program with more than 200 full- and part-time staff.

York has the largest student safety escort program in Canada, with 22 staff operating six safety escort vans on both campuses every evening.

The University has one of the most comprehensive blue light emergency phone systems and closed circuit TV monitoring systems in Canada, with more than 100 cameras covering most areas of the campus, including more than 95 per cent of our parking.

York’s policy is to put safety before reputation and safety before anxiety and all incidents are reported widely to the campus community through posted alert bulletins. Not all universities take this open and cautious approach to security communications.

The online survey sample reports a low score in the categories associated with student services that also is not reflective of the facts.

York is widely recognized for the its high level of academic student services, including Web-based services and personal academic advising for all new students.

Plans are underway to relocate all student academic services to one location by next fall.

The University has recently opened four new state-of-the-art computer labs for teaching in the new Computer Science and Engineering Building and a new 250-seat computer commons open to all students.

The exceptional York Lanes retail facility offers a full range of retail and comprehensive health services to students. It features one of the widest arrays of food services available on any Ontario campus with options including kosher, vegetarian, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Greek food outlets as well as a full range of coffee shops, fast food and pub establishments.

York’s concerns about the survey were echoed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), which was also critical of the survey’s methodology and utility to students. “Canada’s universities strongly believe in the value of public and student opinion and consistently seek feedback to improve their programs and services,” the AUCC said in a news release. “Universities also believe that students and parents should have access to a wide range of information about Canadian universities in order to make appropriate and clear choices.

“However, the AUCC is concerned about the survey methodology, judging that it could mislead students, parents and guidance counsellors about the relative quality of our institutions,” said the release. “The rankings provide student opinion gathered in an online survey and do not include the full spectrum of Canadian universities or their students’ views.”