Commentary

Results May Vary

Following the publication of The Phillipian’s 2015 State of the Academy, many students and faculty expressed their concern regarding some of the statistics presented in the survey. The way The Phillipian conducted the State of the Academy, however, may have resulted in some misrepresented data. Until we first verify the legitimacy of the survey, we should refrain from drawing any conclusions that are primarily based on these results. Since the State of the Academy not only helps establish our viewpoints concerning certain issues on campus, but also influences our decisions on how to address these problems, we must strive to change any factors that may have resulted in inaccuracies in this year’s State of the Academy so that we can obtain authentic data in next year’s survey.

To begin with, not every Andover student took part in the State of the Academy. As a result, the survey may not reflect the opinions of certain minority groups or factions on campus. While 855 out of 1,138 students contributed to the survey according to the State of the Academy, we need to take into account that approximately 25 percent of the student body chose not to participate. I am not asserting that we should criticize The Phillipian for presenting possibly skewed data (as a matter of fact, The Phillipian cannot force all students to vote). When looking at the survey data, we must remember that not every student is represented.

In addition to the possibly non-comprehensive sample size, the ambiguity present in certain terms used in the survey questions may have caused confusion among students, which may have also led to imprecise survey results. For instance, some students do not know the definition of “reverse racism,” a word that The Phillipian used in the State of the Academy survey. Even if some students do search up these definitions online, the Internet offers them several definitions for each term.
I experienced this problem while I read the article, “Racism: A Definition” by Emily Ndiokho ’18, which was published in last week’s issue of The Phillipian. In her article, Ndiokho denied the existence of reverse racism by using the definition of reverse racism, which, according to her, is “a systemic discrimination against a dominant or majority racial group.” When I took the State of the Academy survey, I had acknowledged the existence of reverse racism based on the definition in the Collins English Dictionary, which claims that reverse racism is “a perceived discrimination against a dominant group or political majority.”
Because the Collins English Dictionary did not mention anything pertaining to “a systemic discrimination,” I recognized the legitimacy of reverse racism since I had witnessed individual cases in which people of color had discriminated against white people. If I had used Ndiokho’s definition to form a decision, my answer would have been different. Ndiokho further asserts that people often conflate the definitions of “prejudice” and “reverse racism.” This, however, happens because various definitions for “reverse racism” exist. Students did not have one definition to adhere to during the survey; thus, we cannot guarantee the credibility of the results.

Some questions in the State of the Academy survey should not have been presented to the student body as “Yes” or “No” questions; this also lessens the legitimacy of the State of the Academy. For example, I only agreed to “Do you think Andover students are happy?” because my friends seemed happy. If the survey had asked me whether or not my acquaintances seemed happy, my answer to the question would have been drastically different. Moreover, each person possesses their own, distinct perception of happiness. Some may think that “happy” is equivalent to “I love Andover”; others may think that “happy” is equivalent to “I got eight hours of sleep last night.” With such discrepancies at hand, the need to verify the legitimacy of State of the Academy still remains.

There are plenty of ways in which we can resolve this issue. While The Phillipian cannot require all students to participate in the State of the Academy survey, as a community, we should all feel obligated to take it. The survey not only provides invaluable information about student life and activities, but also plays an essential role in our ability to identify and address problems on campus. The Phillipian can also enhance the quality of the survey by specifying the definitions of words like “reverse racism” and by allowing students to reply to questions using a 1-10 scale, so that students will not have to simply decide between “Yes” and “No” answers. By implementing some of these suggestions into next year’s survey process, we can acquire more accurate results.

May 28, 2015