Commentary

SOTA: Success In Offering Truthful Answers

For the first time since I had arrived on campus, I could not find a copy of the newspaper anywhere. Every single stand was empty, but I managed to scrounge up an abandoned copy from the Den. In that moment, I finally understood the anticipation revolving around the State of the Academy issue: it was a way to understand and visualize this school to the fullest extent. Because the State of the Academy (SOTA) is the only source of extremely important information open to students, it should be answered with honesty and care.

SOTA is one of the only ways the community is able to observe trends of activities that are too sensitive for school administration to collect. As a newer member of the Andover community, the extent of SOTA’s information surprised me. Many of these questions involved admitting to major offenses, which could potentially lead to expulsion or other punishments of equal magnitude. Although activities such as substance usage and sexual activity are shrouded in secrecy, they cannot stay there forever. These activities — and others — are all actions that will inevitably influence some of our lives here at Andover. Avoiding these topics all together would be a grave mistake. Instead, SOTA brings together the perfect conditions in order for data collection: the anonymity and autonomy that The Phillipian offers allows the Andover community to gain access to a wealth of information that could not have been otherwise available.

The statistics from SOTA are often used and referenced in many proceedings around campus. SOTA is no ordinary survey — it is the sole provider of information that is imperative to maintaining the wellbeing of Andover students. Both the students and the adults on campus shape their outlooks on Andover through this issue of the newspaper. Administration will often plan initiatives around statistics from the survey as well. The numbers are even used to educate students, as I had experienced first hand in the wellness branch of my physical education class. In presentations on usage of substances and healthy relationships, all of the statistics that the Sykes Wellness Center used on alcohol and drug consumption as well as sexual activity were from the previous year’s SOTA. Many organizations on campus use the data in order to make serious decisions; in turn, we must fill out this survey seriously as well.

Although there is almost no benefit to lying on the SOTA, I still hear of students who fill in circles so as to create whichever profile they find most interesting. Because the survey is anonymous and unable to be tracked, there is no societal standard to live up to or peer pressure to face while filling out the survey. The only way others would know about the answers of your personal survey would be to personally tell them. Anything gained from creating falsehoods within the questionnaire is miniscule, yet the effects of false statistics can mar the only picture we have to understanding the health of Andover from all aspects. Because of the absolute importance of the survey, the answers should be as close to the truth of the situation as possible. Unlike other surveys that may have duplicates, there are no other surveys of similar scope or even topic as the SOTA.

There will not be, nor should there be, punishment of any form for not truthfully answering the SOTA survey. The survey itself is optional and students are given the choice to disclose personal information. The survey is also completely untrackable, making it both logistically and morally nonsensical to vet these answers — instead, it should be up to the student. If one does choose to participate, participate honestly and well.

Know that your answers are private unless you, and only you, make them public. Anything you write in the survey can never be explicitly found again, meaning the only place those answers are stored is in your memory. But the cost of being dishonest is simply too high to trade for a joke or funny story: the very direction of Andover depends on the results of the SOTA, so click the bubbles that accurately represent you. Ultimately, SOTA is meant to provide information to improve you and your peers’ overall wellbeing. But this cannot happen unless you make the first move: by answering both carefully and honestly.

May 19, 2017