University News

Poll results shed light on U. affairs and student life

Undergrads responded to questions about Paxson, alcohol, same-sex marriage and religion

By and
University News Editors
Friday, April 5, 2013
This article is part of the series Spring 2013 Student Poll

Over 90 percent of students support the legalization of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, according to a Herald poll conducted March 13-14. More than 60 percent of students support the recent creation of a School of Public Health, approved by the Corporation in February. Student approval for President Christina Paxson has also increased since last semester, with nearly half of students stating approval for her handling of the presidency, an increase from 28 percent of students in the fall.

Over 20 percent of students reported attending a varsity sports game once in a typical semester. Almost 85 percent of students said they consumed alcohol in the past year, and 49 percent reported using marijuana in the same period.

 

The marriage plot

A decisive majority of students expressed support for expanding the definition of marriage in Rhode Island to include same-sex couples. Among those surveyed, 82 percent strongly agreed with legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, while fewer than 9 percent somewhat agreed with doing so.

Five percent of students have no opinion on the proposed legalization of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, 1 percent somewhat disagree and less than 3 percent strongly disagree. Under 4 percent of students reported being opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives approved legislation in January legalizing same-sex marriage, but the Rhode Island Senate must also pass the bill before it can be signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14.

Though a recent poll from the Taubman Center for Public Policy showed approximately 60 percent of Rhode Islanders favor legalizing same-sex marriage, the bill has remained dormant in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it must be approved before proceeding to a full Senate vote, The Herald previously reported. Chafee has publicly indicated he intends to sign the bill if it is passed by both houses of the General Assembly.

 

University Hall

The Corporation voted in February to create a School of Public Health after a unanimous faculty vote in approval of the motion in November, The Herald previously reported. Poll results show almost 36 percent of students strongly approve of the creation of the new school, and nearly 30 percent somewhat approve. Close to a quarter of students had no opinion on this issue, and 7 percent said they were not familiar enough to answer. Four percent of students somewhat disapproved of the Corporation’s decision and just under 1 percent strongly disapproved. The school is currently seeking accreditation through national channels, The Herald reported in October.

Approval of Paxson has grown since last semester — nearly 45 percent of students stated approval of Paxson, up from 28 percent last semester, according to poll results. Paxson convened six committees to direct the course of strategic planning for her tenure, and the groups released preliminary results in January. Despite the increased level of approval, almost half of students reported no opinion on the way Paxson is handling her job as president.

Though the University does not offer the option for students to pursue minors, more than 66 percent of students reported thinking the option should exist. Of that group, 60 percent would pursue a minor and just under 6 percent would not. Almost 16 percent of polled students said they do not think the University should offer the option, though they would pursue the option if it were available, and 7 percent answered negatively to both questions. Ten percent of students expressed no opinion.

Females supported the existence and pursuit of minors at a higher rate, with more than 67 percent answering that they would both pursue a minor and think the option should be available.

 

Student life

Two-thirds of students attend a varsity sports game at the University no more than once per semester, with 31 percent saying they never attend varsity sports games. Fourteen percent of students attend a varsity sports game less than once per semester, 22 percent of students attend a varsity sports game approximately once per semester and 14 percent said they attend a varsity sports game once per month.

Fewer than one in five students attend a varsity sports game at Brown more than once per month, with 8 percent attending a game once every two weeks, 6 percent attending once per week and 4 percent attending a game more than once per week.

Students’ attendance at varsity sports games varies significantly between those who are varsity athletes and those who are not. Over 63 percent of students who said they are on a varsity sports team reported attending a game at least once every two weeks, while fewer than 10 percent of non-varsity athletes do so.

More than two-thirds of students attend an on-campus extracurricular event in the performing or visual arts at least once per month. Thirty-five percent of students indicated they attend one of these art-themed events once per month, 21 percent attend once every two weeks, 12 percent attend once per week and 7 percent attend more than once per week.

Sixteen percent of students attend an on-campus extracurricular event in the arts once per semester, while 5 percent said they attend one of these events less than once per semester and 5 percent indicating they never attend.

Over a third of students have members of their first-year housing unit in their current housing group. Thirty-five percent of students said they met most of the people they currently live with or are planning on living with next year through their first-year units, while 22 percent said they met most people in their housing groups through a student group or sports team.

Nineteen percent of students said they met most of their housing group members through classes or shared academic settings, 36 percent met them through other friends, and 10 percent said they are in a fraternity, sorority or program house. Nine percent of students said they went into the housing lottery alone or studied abroad, 3 percent said they were in random assignment for housing and 8 percent said the housing question was not applicable.

Over 70 percent of students said their religious preferences have not changed since coming to Brown. A plurality of students — 42 percent — said they do not currently practice a religion and did not do so before coming to the University. Twenty-nine percent of students said they practice the same religion with the same level of commitment as they did before entering Brown, while under 10 percent of students said they practice the same religion with more commitment, and 12 percent practice the same religion with less commitment.

One percent of students practice a different religion since entering the University, while another 1 percent of students said they now practice a religion but did not do so before coming to the University. Five percent indicated they practiced a religion before enrolling but do not do so now.

 

Sex and drugs

Almost 85 percent of students drank alcohol in the past year, according to poll results. Not all students reported alcohol consumption at the same rate — 79 percent of first-years and 90 percent of seniors have consumed alcohol this year. Fewer concentrators in the physical sciences — 79 percent — consumed alcohol than did students in other areas of study. Most students who have had a drink in the past year reported also having sex while intoxicated, at a rate of 62 percent.

Nearly half of students have used marijuana in the past year, though athletes reported less marijuana use than did their peers at only 40 percent, compared to nearly 49 percent in the general population. Like alcohol, more seniors have used marijuana in the past year than first-years — 55 percent compared to 43 percent, respectively. Males and humanities concentrators used marijuana most frequently, with both percentages at more than half.

A quarter of students reported using tobacco this year, though male students smoked more than females, at 30 percent compared to 20 percent among female peers. Athletes and first-years  have smoked less than other students this year, at under 20 percent for both groups.

Just over 5 percent of students reported using prescription painkillers and amphetamines recreationally this year, though 8 percent of seniors said they used amphetamines in that time. Fewer athletes used ecstasy than their peers, at 5 percent versus 9 percent of students who are not varsity athletes. Just over 6 percent of students used psychedelic mushrooms, and 4.5 percent reported LSD use this year. Other substances, including opiates, heroin and PCP were used by 1 percent of students. Under 14 percent of students reported they had used none of the above substances, and less than 1 percent did not know which they had consumed.

A majority of students have had sex while intoxicated, and 41 percent of students said they have had sex with an intoxicated partner. More athletes and seniors have had sex while intoxicated at 63 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Less than 10 percent of students said they wanted to say no but didn’t object in a sexual encounter, and 13 percent reported that they did not tell their partner yes or no explicitly. Only 2 percent of students have had sex when a partner had given mixed signals about consent, and almost 9 percent of students said they had sex when they felt obligated to do the same with their partner as they had in previous situations.

More than 10 percent of students reported they had sex after assuming they would do the same thing with their partner as before, and 2 percent reported they had sex and hoped their partner wouldn’t say anything. Over 40 percent of students said they had not had sex under any of the above conditions.

 

A previous version of this article stated that over 25 percent of students used marijuana in the past year. Precisely 49 percent of students polled have used marijuana in the past year.