The Yale College Council received a record number of responses to its annual Fall Survey this year, which highlighted, among other issues, student dissatisfaction with mental health resources on campus in addition to strong support for academic minors and a new cultural center for students of Middle Eastern and North African descent.
Over 3,200 students submitted data to this year’s YCC survey, compared to last year’s 1,600 respondents, while response rates increased across all class years, according to data shared with the News. Half of respondents either strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement that Yale has enough mental health resources for its students, and over 60 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Yale should provide more spaces that offer mental health and wellness resources, like the Good Life Center in Silliman College. Additionally, over 75 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that they support the creation of a Middle East and North Africa cultural house.
Approximately 2,100 students responded to the entire survey — which took about 10–15 minutes to complete, according to YCC Vice President Heidi Dong ’20. The survey was open from Oct. 24 to Oct. 31. For the first time ever, YCC also offered the Yale community the opportunity to request raw data collected by the Council, and sent out preliminary survey results in an email to students last Thursday.
“I think that less and less students think we’re the YCC of empty promises this year, and they believe that by providing their input on certain survey data questions genuinely, we’ll do something about it,” YCC President Saloni Rao ’20 told the News. “All sorts of groups on campus … could find what we collected very interesting and it’s not our data. It’s data for the student body and it’s our obligation to share that with people.”
Rao and Dong said the survey results provide some quantitative evidence for trends they had already suspected among students — including support for minors and more credit for laboratory courses. Over 80 percent of respondents said they would pursue a minor if minors were offered at Yale, while over half of respondents said laboratory courses that are currently worth 0.5 credits should be worth more.
Steven Orientale ’21, a YCC representative for Jonathan Edwards College, said minors would appeal to students who are interested in pursuing a second subject of study but still want the flexibility to take courses unrelated to either concentration. Orientale said YCC committees plan on meeting with administrators about the possibility of offering minors and changing the number of credits students receive for laboratory courses.
This year, the YCC also included a question on the survey asking students to rate the statement “I am happy at Yale.” on a scale from one to seven. Rao said the YCC added this question at Yale College Dean Marvin Chun’s request. Eighteen percent of students responded with “7 – Completely agree” while the most popular rating was “6” with 37 percent of respondents.
“I am pleased that most of our students are thriving at Yale, and these data will help guide us to further make the Yale experience special,” Chun told the News. “I track many other measures such as whether students feel intellectually challenged in their classes, whether they are engaging broadly with our curriculum, whether they are pursuing diverse career paths after school such as public service, and so on.”
While 72 percent of respondents said they had never sought out the services of Yale Mental Health & Counseling, almost half of students said they would be likely to approach Mental Health & Counseling if they wanted professional counseling.
Survey data also highlighted lack of student awareness of certain campus resources, such as free emergency contraception offered at Yale Health. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were not aware that Yale Health offers emergency contraception 24/7 and that this resource is free to students.
YCC uses data from the Fall Survey to inform policy projects for the year, according to Rao. Last year, responses helped YCC advocate for changes to the Cr/D/Fail policy, pilot a program to provide free menstrual products in two colleges and push for the Yellow shuttle line, Rao noted.
This year, YCC tried to incentivize students to take the survey by offering a free pizza party to any residential colleges with over 50 percent participation, and offering survey respondents the chance to enter a lottery for 10 Amazon gift cards. Still, only one college, Branford, reached the 50 percent threshold to earn a pizza party, according to Dong.
Rao acknowledged that the Fall Survey, which asked over 100 questions, is “grueling” but attributed this year’s high response rate to students’ growing trust in YCC’s ability to effect change. During her campaign last spring, Rao promised to increase YCC’s legitimacy and bargaining power as the organization’s new president. Since Rao’s election, YCC has made concerted efforts to bolster its image on campus through social media initiatives like weekly recap videos and a new spotlight series, which recently profiled Chun and popular Good Nature Market employee Joshua Ham, among others.
Despite this year’s higher response rate, some students interviewed by the News said they forgot to complete the survey before the deadline on Oct. 31. Shannon Phuah ’21 said YCC representatives in her college, Pauli Murray, encouraged students to take the survey to win a pizza party, but this incentive was “not that motivating.”
Phuah added that she might complete the survey if YCC extended the deadline. Three other students interviewed by the News also said they did not take the survey because it was too long.
Current YCC projects fall under three umbrellas — academics, student life and University services — and include investigating changes to mental health and counseling resources, improving leave of absence and reinstatement procedures and expanding the free menstrual hygiene products program. According to Rao, last month, YCC also formed a New Haven-Yale task force and plans on launching an informational campaign in collaboration with Chief Investment Officer David Swensen and Chun to explain Yale’s endowment to students.
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