University News

MyCampus results examine campus functionality

An analysis of courses also found declining interdisciplinary study as students get older

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Data from the MyCampus survey confirmed University hypotheses about how students and community members use and perceive the campus, said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy and chair of the Committee on Reimagining the Campus and Community, at Tuesday’s Brown University Community Council meeting.

The results confirmed that community members sense a physical divide between the humanities and sciences on campus, that upperclassmen perceive Brown to extend beyond College Hill and that students view Thayer Street as unsafe.

The results will help guide the committee’s priorities when it submits its final recommendations to President Christina Paxson this May.

Carey broke down the data into a 56-slide-long presentation of interactive graphs, maps and word clouds that revealed the accessibility issues highlighted in the responses collected through MyCampus.

“I’m not sure if we will see anything that dramatic, but (MyCampus) will inform planning decisions and inform our most immediate needs,” Carey said.

“Some of the work I find the most interesting and enlightening has come through the Committee on Reimagining the Campus and Community,” Paxson said.

The MyCampus survey received over 2,600 responses: 1,595 from students, 282 from faculty members and 726 from staff members. Brown’s participation rate was the highest seen by Sasaki, the planning company that conducted the survey, Carey said.

Many maps highlighted Thayer Street as a hotspot for working, dining and socializing, as well as an area of concern for campus safety. The Blue Room received rave reviews from students, notably as the fourth largest phrase in the word bubble for dining, after “food,” “eat” and “love.”

Carey cited the Blue Room’s popularity as a model of intervention, noting the “investments made in the building to make it a better eatery for students and staff.”

Another function of MyCampus asked participants to select the area of campus they thought to be the “campus core,” which older respondents perceived as geographically larger, the slides revealed.

Sasaki also mapped undergraduate course enrollments, finding that the rate of interdepartmental enrollment decreases after freshman year, as most students declare concentrations and focus on fulfilling those requirements, Carey said.

The thickly intertwined web “confirmed what we already knew: that the curriculum at the undergraduate level is completely connected and students are taking courses throughout departments,” Carey said. The divide between sciences and humanities manifested in the graphs of all students but was particularly pronounced in those of upperclassmen.

Carey presented a similarly divided web derived from the faculty survey released in December, which polled 80 percent of faculty members about the buildings in which they worked, their departments and the seven most important institutions with which they collaborate.

“Exactly what we will conclude from this is something we continue to discuss,” Carey said, but he referenced the committee’s focus on moving departments out of former residences and into multiplexes of numerous, connected departments as a possible application of this segment of the MyCampus data.

The council then discussed the importance of faculty, staff and postdoc access to childcare in response to a presentation from  Andrea Simmons, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, about the Childcare Committee’s findings released Tuesday.

The Childcare Committee was formed last summer after the Taft Avenue Day Care Center, which exclusively served the Brown community, was shut down.

Simmons presented various recommendations for both the short and the long term, including establishing a fund for childcare costs, appointing a childcare planning board and developing a website. Specific suggestions included shifting seminar times to end before 5:30 p.m., the time when all day cares close. Simmons described the obstacles the recommendations face to pass as “daunting” but added that the set of recommendations is “something that I believe needs to happen.”

Simmons said inadequate childcare access affects all members of an institution, not just those with children. “Proper childcare facilities reduce absenteeism, improve worker productivity and reduce turnover,” she said. “Really, the issues of work and family life affect all of us.”

Simmons cited the “maternal wall” built between women and their advancement in terms of finding proper childcare and family-friendly policies as a major focus of the committee.

The University is associated with three childcare centers: Brown/Fox Point, YMCA/Mount Hope Childcare Center and Bright Futures Early Childhood Center at Meeting Street School. At each of these centers, faculty members and postdoc students have access to childcare slots reserved for University families.

But the number of slots reserved is not enough, nor is it competitive with other universities like the University of Pennsylvania or Johns Hopkins University, Simmons said. A survey issued through the committee revealed considerable dissatisfaction from 1,000 respondents with the current state of childcare affairs at the University. Rhode Island ranks between the sixth and 14th least affordable state in terms of childcare, which “is a ranking we do not want to brag about,” Simmons said.

  • anonymous

    “Many maps highlighted Thayer Street as a hotspot for working, dining and socializing.” No shit.

    • Daniel Moraff

      Wonder how much they paid some consultant for those fancy maps.