Survey Indicates Poor Visibility in Chapel

Approximately half the school reports they have an obstructed view during All-School Meeting (ASM), according to a survey sent out to the Phillips Academy student body on October 5, 2011. Around 521 students, or 70 percent of the survey respondents, felt they could not see the podium or presentation screen during David Eagleman’s wellness week ASM presentation in the chapel. In reaction to these survey results, Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students and All-School Meeting Coordinator, potential alternatives to aid student visibility in future All-School Meeting performances. “One of the things that is part of the process, quite naturally, is trying to figure out whether other institutions like us have this problem and, if so, do they have a good solution. Let’s not reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to. Let’s borrow some good ideas and technology if it’s out there,” said Hoyt. “This will hopefully lead to a small amount of [solutions] that we can consider and then we will look into how [each one] is best adapted to Phillips Academy and the Cochran Chapel for the purposes that we want.” The survey included portions for free response, where students suggested potential solutions. Hoyt said, “Students came up with everything from [making] the columns invisible to [cutting] the columns down, which obviously were jokes. Other students suggested that we have screens on the side aisles, while other students wondered if we could put screens on the columns.” Hoyt had created the one-question survey, titled The Chapel Sightline Survey, to gauge students’ difficulty seeing around the large columns lining the center isle of the Cochran Chapel during ASM. In the survey, students were asked to “indicate the extent of [their] view of the stage” during The survey presented options for the degrees of visibility, including “Complete, Full View”, “Partially Obstructed View”, “Could not see the screen”, “Could not see the speaker at the podium” and “Could not see the screen or the speaker at the podium.” The results from the survey indicated that 207 students (28.6 percent) had a complete view of the stage, 212 students (29.1 percent) had a partially obstructed view and 50 students (6.9 percent) could not see the presentation screen. “It seemed to make sense to get a real quantitative sense of how many kids can see the speaker. If you stand on the stage, you get a sense that most people can see because most people are in front of you, but really less than a third of the students are in center aisle while the rest have some sort of obstruction,” said Hoyt. Ninety-six students (13.1 percent) said that they could not see the speaker at the podium and 164 students said that (22.2 percent) could not see the screen or the speaker at the podium during the presentation. “The fact that 70 percent of [the respondents] have some sort of obstruction is just a practical issue. Part of the way I think about it is, if you are in a classroom with 10 kids and if seven cannot see the teacher teaching, then that wouldn’t be good,” said Hoyt. “The solution will involve weighing different ways of [improving visibility]. What is the cost? What is the architecture? And what is the timeline? I am really pleased that we seem to be on our way to trying to do something about the visibility.” Hoyt said that improving the visibility of students will also improve the overall experience of the presentation. Hoyt continued, “I think that [the visibility within the Chapel] doesn’t just matter to the audience, but also to the presenter. I think, as the person on the stage, you want to know that the people who you are speaking to and showing stuff to can see you and see what you are presenting.” Although creating the survey in order to evaluate visibility was Hoyt’s idea, Hoyt noted that the survey represents the concern a number of faculty members have had recently. “It is impossible not to notice that some people simply can’t see the presentation; some of them are literally sitting behind a pillar. I’m sure that long before I came to Phillips Academy people were talking about that,” said Hoyt. Hoyt said that the survey served as a means of getting a sense of how big of a problem visibility within the Cochran Chapel is. According to Hoyt, there is currently no timeline regarding when the changes to the Cochran Chapel will be made.