School Culture Consultants Continue Survey Analysis

One could hear gasps and laughter ripple throughout the audience at school meeting on Tuesday, October 18 when Ms. Rosalind Wiseman and Mr. Charlie Kuhn revealed the surprising results of a survey about hook-up culture.

The survey was intended to prevent assumptions about student culture. According to Ms. Wiseman, “We wanted to do something that was organic, meaning that we would explore the culture at Choate in partnership with students and faculty. The survey was really about the integrity of the process.” She continued, “If a school is going to bring someone from the outside, we can’t have assumptions about things that are going on at Choate.” A committee comprised of students and faculty worked tirelessly when creating the survey to pose questions that encapsulated the thoughts of many different students at Choate in an attempt to implement design thinking — approaching a subject with curiosity from which questions stem.

In addition to eliminating any assumptions about hook-up culture, the goals of the survey, as identified by Dean of Students Mr. James Stanley, were to understand “the nature of campus culture and try to use that to figure out what policies, if any, need to be adjusted.” In addition, the survey was made “to help faculty feel more comfortable having important yet challenging conversations” with the students and with each other. Changing the current new student orientations, as well as the health and wellness education, were also major goals.

While the data is still being processed, Ms. Wiseman and Mr. Kuhn were able to identify preliminary trends, some of which they shared during an all-school meeting. Ms. Wiseman noted that there were things that faculty wanted to learn more about, such as the school’s hook-up culture, in order to better understand and help students. The perception of hook-ups at Choate among fourth form and fifth form students was greater than the reality, while that of sixth formers was more accurate. Another trend was that students rely on one another for advice about their personal lives more than they do with faculty.

The survey asked two distinct types of questions: those that contained a rubric with a drop-down menu or slide scale and those that were open-ended. Regarding open-ended questions, Ms. Wiseman noted that it was “really tough to get thorough and reliable answers because you could pick and choose quotes that are particularly interesting to you or make your point — which is not what we’re trying to do.” Instead, a team of properly trained and qualified individuals will go through every response, which is both time-consuming and labor-intensive. Ms. Wiseman estimates that it will take hundreds of hours to codify the responses and analyze them. Analysts still have much work to do before they are finished with the open-ended questions.

The presentation of the data itself is not clear as of right now. Mr. Stanley stated, “After the coding is done, the data will be analyzed, and we are expecting to receive a summary report from Rosalind and Charlie. That summary report will be shared in some manner, but the raw data will not be shared.” Ms. Wiseman and Mr. Kuhn recognize that some of the information is relevant and important to various student groups. The data is also integral to reforming the current Sophomore Seminar curriculum, an initiative that the Student Council is pushing. The plan for the final presentation of the data will be more clear in the coming weeks. In addition, there is also the question of whether the information will be shared outside of the Choate community. According to Mr. Stanley, “We are very comfortable sharing it within the community. The question is whether it will be shared beyond the community and that is still being discussed.”

In regards to students who are less enthusiastic about her message, Ms. Wiseman hopes that students approach the subject with an open mind. She said, “When I go to campus, I am very purposefully meeting with all different kinds of students. We are doing our best to deliberately work with people who may or may not feel as though they are invited to participate in this process. I genuinely am concerned about this feeling of taking a fixed position and feeling that if you change your mind, it means that somehow your argument or your intellectual rigor was not as strong. In that dichotomy, there is no room for listening to each other.”

If given the opportunity to send the survey again, there are many amendments that Ms. Wiseman and her team would like to make, especially in regards to the various glitches in the survey. A glitch occurred in the question “Have you hooked up?” Final changes made to the order of questions on the day before the survey was released accidentally altered the logic of the survey. According to Mr. Kuhn, “When we moved some of these questions, the logic that we had set up wasn’t sound. The program said, ‘I’m not sure what to do here; I am going to show everybody everything.’” Both students who answered yes and no to whether they have hooked up were asked questions that were only applicable to students who had hooked up. Ms. Wiseman elaborated, “When I heard about the glitch, I went from complete elation to abject horror and frustration, especially because of where the glitch occurred. It looked like we were assuming that everybody at Choate had hooked up. That is the last thing that we wanted to articulate.” Grayce Gibbs ’18 said, “I think it was really disappointing that there was a technical glitch in the survey because it really turned students off to her message and they were less likely to listen.” HPRSS teacher Mr. James Davidson added, “It was unusual having everyone logged on to the system doing the same thing at the same time.” As a result, students were more likely to encounter issues such as the page not loading or the page taking a while to load.

Ms. Wiseman wants people who are passionate about changing the hook-up culture at Choate to feel as though they are having an impact. She also wants to reach out to students who “feel that this doesn’t matter to them, or that this is blown out of proportion, or that only one kind of group is listened to.” Moreover, she said she can make them “feel that they are welcome into this conversation, that their participation in this effort is valuable, and that they can freely speak their mind.” She said, “Choate is not a community of small groups of people who affiliate with each other. Choate should be about a larger group that is able to have robust conversations and be proud of the fact that this community can do that.”

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