October Community Survey: Election Edition and More!

October Community Survey: Election Edition and More!

We took a straw poll of the Trinity community in October 2020 two weeks before the presidential election.  The results, displayed above, are very consistent with earlier polls of the Trinity community.  At the bottom of this blog is another chart depicting the opinions of the Trinity community on a range of issues at stake in the election.

We also asked about how the campus community is faring as we approach November and the latter half of the semester.  We asked some of the same questions we posed in our September community survey so that we could have comparative results.  Below are the results of the October 2020 survey including sample comments as well as data:

chart

Comments from Students from the College of Arts & Sciences:

“Even though, I may get distracted a little, I am still able to maintain my good grades and study. I am caught up with my assignments, although I miss in-person because it helped me remained focus.”

“The professors have all been helpful and lectures have been a great experience. However, in terms of getting work done and being mentally prepared for assignments, tests, and papers has been overwhelming. Being at home and not being able to have time alone has caused me to stress and not finish my work as I would want to.”

“It is harder to focus when classes are online. I prefer in-person classes, but I understand the circumstances of the virus. I just do not think I am grasping the information well.”

“It’s not as good as spring 2020 because professors and students already had an established rapport. This current semester feels robotic in a way. No has done anything to get to know each other it was just straight into work after work after work.”

“I think it is very overwhelming. Being that neither I nor some of my peers signed up for online classes, it is very difficult and not as manageable for many of us. Through these difficult times, many of us are mentally and physically drained and the different environment is taking a big toll on us and there are still a lot of expectations coming from professors and other people. I understand it is college and it’s meant to be challenging but online classes are more difficult. But, we’ll have to deal because it isn’t safe to be on campus with a whole class of students.”

“I must say the Professors/Instructors are super understanding during these times. This is making my life so much better. I am a single parent household and with my 4 year old here at home with me things have been complex to say the least but my professors have been so awesome.”

“I thought I would be better at managing assignments and classes, since everything is online. However, it has become overwhelming. Even the classes that I started off managing well, have started to overlap with the various assignments from my harder courses.”

“I expected this semester to be stressful, overwhelming at times yet interesting, and still engaging through classes. Now I find myself checking my emails more than ever and the number of emails we get every day can also be overwhelming. Obviously, things aren’t the same and it will take a while to be the same but now I miss the in-person activities even more. Classes are going all right and at the moment it feels like I’m hanging on by a thread and right now I’m just looking forward to the holidays.”

“I am giving birth in early December and being online for my classes has helped me a lot this semester. I can get school done at work, help my children with their virtual learning and I can prepare better for my new edition to my family, not having to go into class and coming back home with a possibility of exposure to my family members. I enjoy virtual learning a lot and hopefully, it can stay this way even next semester.”

“Online is a HUGE adjustment. I feel there should be a lot more leniency and I also believe ALL lectures should be recorded so students can go back and review, some of my professor do that and it’s a huge convenience and helps a lot. Overall it is a lot to handle and something I feel like I’m drowning just trying to keep up. I know college is independent when it comes to doing your work etc however, I didn’t sign up for an online class so reminders would go a long way or at least an email at the beginning of each week as some of my professors had done.”

Comments from Students in the School of Nursing and Health Professions:

“I feel that it would be beneficial to all if the professors used the same method of posting and submitting assignments. Adjusting from one method to another can be frustrating. The lack of consistency in receiving feedback on our work is also an area of concern.”

“I’m back in school after 10 years and I expected to struggle. However, the staff and faculty have been very engaging and helpful. I’m able to reach people on the phone when I call offices/departments, and get answers to my questions in real time. And I was also able to get a chromebook for classes.”

“I thought that the semester wouldn’t be so bad being at home, but I’m about half way through and I think this has been my hardest semester yet. Not even because of the work load the stress of everything and staying motivated has been so hard. Dealing with financial strains and trying to be positive in the midst of all the negativity has been super hard.”

“I never thought that I had what it took to take online classes. Sitting before a screen from 9 am to 7 pm is not what i thought my senior year of nursing school would be like. It has proven that I am resilient and that with a made up mind I can do anything. I expected it to be a lot worse than it is. I have learned to take breaks and make the adjustments necessary to succeed.”

Comments from Students in the School of Professional and Graduate Studies:

“It is really hard balancing regular life and getting back into the discipline of studies. When I was placed in my classes, although I had transfer credits, I struggled with writing papers and presentations. I am grateful for the services Trinity has provided such as the writing center and even more thankful that I can take these classes from home, since I am a mom and homeschooling and still very afraid of COVID. In setting my own expectations I have still not been able to balance studying, working from home and home schooling. I don’t know what I would do If I actually had to come on campus, so I am trying my best to utilize my time effectively.”

“My professors are accommodating and sensitive to the need to balance evening classes with home/family/work responsibilities. Classes have been interactive and engaging.”

“I’m returning back to school after a three year hiatus and was not sure what to expect. I have great professors that are willing to work with students after returning back to school.”

Comments from the Full-Time Faculty:

 

“I replaced traditional exams with more homework and classwork assignments. I was concerned it would be too much, but students are keeping up with completing assignments and I am keeping up with grading them. I think the routine of these assignments compensates somewhat for lack of presence on campus and is promoting critical thinking and learning skills.”

“Students are so busy at home with family and work that they are finding it difficult to juggle responsibilities and to stay motivated.”

“Students seem to be doing well. Many would prefer face-to-face classes but have adapted to the online environment.”

“Graduate students are used to virtual learning; they welcome it. They are doing exceptionally well.”

“The students are doing very well with academic work. Their normal stress created during the semester is perhaps exacerbated by distance learning, pandemic, finances, and social distancing. For example, students are stressed during mid-terms. I believe there is added stress with being online, out of physical contact with others, and managing their time well. Some students report ease that they do not have to fight traffic, but can stay at home. Others find staying at home decreases their routine and motivation to get task accomplished. To address why I believe students are doing better than expected, is as a faculty member I have spent much more time with students during zoom office hours, than I ever have with in-person office hours. I believe this is due to two aspects. 1. I am encouraging students that I am going to be there with my zoom open for them. I reinforce this message weekly. I even send emails that say, “I am here.” So students log in to zoom. 2. I think it is convenient to meet on zoom for many students because physically going to campus to use an office hour, doesn’t work their schedule. Recently, a group of students in my senior level course wanted more time to work on their writing project. I suggested we brainstorm. So on a Friday at 7 pm six students logged into the class zoom link and we brainstormed and refined research ideas. Finally, traditional age students use technology to interact daily. So distance learning (Trinity Version 1.0) is very hands on for students. So in many ways we are meeting students at their level of normal engagement. I have also asked students to engage with each other. In. addition to their own personal methods of contacting each others, have set up group zoom meets, and class discussion forums that increase their interactions with each others. Thus, I think it is going better than expected.”

Comments from the Adjunct Faculty:
 

“Students are engaged; the support form Technology has been excellent; and this summer’s QM training was a great preparation.”

“My students are struggling and so are their families. I often wish they would have taken less credits because I feel they didn’t factor in the challenges of virtual learning. My students are unfortunately just realizing that 15 credits in person is very different than 15 credits in a virtual environment.”

Comments from the Staff:

 

“I expected students to have more issues with taking courses virtually, but overall, it has been smoother than I expected. Just as we saw in spring, while this new reality is very challenging, everyone is making adjustments and adapting.”

“Since I am a staff member, I can say that the workload is going better than expected considering the challenges we were presented with; we are finding ways to work around it. Although is not easy, it is doable.”

The above results are for the survey we conducted in October 2020.  We used the same question in our September 2020 survey and we were interested in seeing how results changed.  The illustration below compares results for each cohort on Question 2 from September to October:

 

In this illustration we see that for each cohort, the responses show some decline in satisfaction, with the largest decline among CAS students where 32% said the semester was going worse than anticipated compared to 18% in September.  Smaller dispositional declines are clear in each group.  We are examining the specific comments, some of which are set forth above, to understand more about the shift in perceptions.  In general, we can see several issues that we need to address:  screen fatigue, overloading assignments, and a general sense of weariness as the pandemic drags on.  The sense of isolation/alienation from the campus community because so many students, faculty and staff are not able to be here in person is also a worry, though many also report how helpful it is to be online when their children are at home.
The next question provides further insight into the sources of discomfort and issues we should discuss:

These results did not change much from the results of the September survey.  Students and faculty actually agree on a lot of the issues — greater awareness of the challenges of managing families, work and school is #2 on both list, and “less screen time in general” is #3 for both.   But there is a wide difference of opinion on “More flexibility in assignments” with 70% of students wanting greater flexibility but only 10% of faculty identifying this as an important issue.  This is an area where more discussion among students and faculty in class might reach some compromise — faculty understandably want to maintain high academic expectations (and students do, too) but students sometimes feel that a faculty member may not consider how many other assignments she’s received from other faculty.  We are also discussing how to advise students about the number of courses they are taking each semester, and maybe we can provide some greater relief in the way courses are scheduled.

Q4: What are one or two things that you hope Trinity will change to make the Spring 2021 semester better for you?

 

Nearly 200 responses to this question cover a range of issues — some of the representative issues raised (and some answers) include:

  • Open up the gym:  in fact, the Trinity Center is now open for students, faculty and staff, Athletics Director Monique McLean sends a weekly email to the community about times and programs — we’ll get more about this posted on the website!
  • Spring Athletics:  we’re still not sure what we’ll be able to do in the spring but we are keeping options open right now; we urge our athletes to take advantage of the Trinity Center to keep working out and preparing for spring sports!
  • Reduced screen time:  we hear you!  Deans are working with faculty to discuss how to manage screen time expectations.
  • Advise students about how many courses they are taking:  yes, advisors will be looking more closely at courseloads since some of the stress is coming from having too many courses online.
  • Require lectures to be recorded and uploaded to Moodle:  Deans are discussing with faculty.
  • NO ALL CAPS EMAILS:  I agree!  Not sure who needs to see this but the comment is correct, please be respectful.
  • More small groups in class so students can get to know each other:  Agree. We have more than 500 new students this fall and I’d like to ask the faculty to consider ways to use breakout sessions to help students forge a better sense of community even online.

Many other great comments in this section — we are sharing all of them with the various offices concerned and will be monitoring progress in the weeks ahead.

We asked a question about residence life but did not get that many responses from resident students, so we will be repeating the survey in the residence halls to get more feedback in those locations.  We have heard that there is some concern with people not wearing masks or observing social distance protocols, and I remind everyone of the importance of following the safety guidelines.

For the final question we returned to politics:

Some comments here including:
  • Reenacting EPA regs that have been removed. Focus on the Green New Deal and priority given to it in rebuilding after the pandemic.
  • More programs that help provide food/shelter for the homeless, especially since winter is around the corner. Better police training because many of these cops don’t handle violent and non-violent situations right which often leads to another death which is what we don’t want. And if they don’t offer better training then they should defund the police departments and fund other departments like education, transportation, wildlife, etc.
  • Not having those kids separated from their parents. People should be able to come here from other countries, attend college and be allowed to work and become citizens. Lowering the student loan debt even further. The interest part of it.
  • Black Lives Matter, Systemic racism
  • A science-driven approach to crushing the Covid-19 virus. Leadership that projects calm, civility and respect, and is committed to justice, racial and gender equity, economic prosperity for all.
  • Funding and reforming education, restoring former prisoners to civilian status with their rights as civilians, formalizing ways for non-union workers to be protected, the fires around the world, increasing minimum wage to livable wage in large companies/conglomerate/corporations/chains/monopolies, using the funding to police to improve and extend required training to become part of the force such as reoccuring rigorous psych, moral, and ethical exams with a focus on possible biases against any specific community, lowering the lethality of police weapons and weapons available to the public.
  • Ending homelessness Student Loan Forgiveness Make “Equal Protection Under the Law” a reality – end the school to prison pipeline and for-profit incarceration. Maintaining the United States’ membership in the World Health Organization Women’s rights are human rights. Close the gender pay gap. More women in leadership. Increased access and funding for mental health services as part of routine public health measures Formal effort to facilitate racial healing and reconciliation in the United States. Dismantle systemic racism and policies rooted in historic colonization and white supremacy. Reparations. Empathy, support, and legal protections for transgender people. How a society treats its most vulnerable reflects its true strength. Everyone benefits when inclusion is the norm and all are able to safely thrive. Children being detained at the border, separated from their adult caregivers, needs to end. The U.S. government is actively traumatizing and abusing innocents. (maybe this relates to the topic about comprehensive immigration reform, but lets start with not harming innocent children.)
  • Repairing the Voting Rights Act Legislation to protect democratic norms in government/strengthen oversite of the executive branch Abolish the electoral college.
  • More rights for people a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Trans women have been harassed, injured and killed. They are no longer seen as human and some disregard their existence. Justice for Native American. Everyone has to admit this is stolen land and the process of getting this land was horrible. We should restore the land and give it back to their people as they are all slowing going extinct.

Thanks to all for your great participation in the October 2020 Trinity Community Survey!