University News

Herald poll: Simmons’ approval rate steady

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 5, 2010
This article is part of the series Spring 2010 Student Poll

President Ruth Simmons’ approval rating has not significantly changed since last semester, despite recent publicity about her past tenure on the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs, according to a Herald poll conducted last month. Of the students polled, 77.5 percent said they approve of the way Simmons is handling her job, while only 6.2 percent said they disapprove.

Simmons’ announcement in February that she was stepping down from Goldman’s board made national headlines. She told The Herald before the decision that she did not believe criticism about the firm’s compensation practices would affect the University’s reputation, though it “could funnel” to her.

The Herald poll was conducted on March 22 and 23 and has a 3.5 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 714 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which The Herald administered as a written questionnaire to students in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson during the day and in the Sciences Library at night.

More than two-thirds of students, 68.8 percent, said they feel confident about their or their families’ ability to pay for their Brown education, almost 10 percent more than in last semester’s poll. But more than 10 percent of students responded that they were very worried, similar to last semester’s results. The poll found that significantly more men, at 43.8 percent, feel very confident about the ability to pay than women, at 28.4 percent.

Support for the Undergraduate Council of Students remained stable from past semesters, with 48.6 percent approving. Only 8.0 percent said they disapprove of the council, but 43.3 percent of those polled said they did not know or had no answer.

Slightly more students, 52.4 percent to 43.5 percent, approved the elimination of dining hall tableslips in favor of centralized announcements, a recent proposal by UCS. Upperclassmen responded significantly more favorably to the removal, with 58.9 percent approving. Only 47.1 percent of freshmen and sophomores said they approved.

The poll also found that a large majority of students, 79.7 percent, approve of Brown Concert Agency’s choices to play at this year’s Spring Weekend. Though men and women approved of the selection of musical acts in about equal numbers, a significantly higher percentage of men responded that they strongly approve than women. While 49.0 percent of men said they strongly approve of this year’s performers, which include Snoop Dogg and MGMT, only 35.6 percent of women said the same.

According to the poll results, 56.1 percent of students have worked for pay this semester. Of those, the plurality — 12.6 percent of the total sample — have done so for an average of more than six and less than or equal to nine hours per week. Among non-freshmen, 62.8 percent reported working for pay this semester, while only 37.0 percent of freshmen polled said the same.

The majority of students, 56.9 percent, have utilized the Career Development Center this past semester. Most of those students, 38.0 percent in total, have used the CDC only once or twice this semester.

In this semester’s poll, nearly 60 percent of students said they were single and about one-third said they were in an exclusive relationship. Freshmen, at 72.3 percent, are significantly more likely to be single than non-freshmen, of whom 54.9 percent are single.

The poll found that a slight majority of students said religion was unimportant in their lives. But 44.3 percent of students responded that religion was important in their lives. The 18.1 percent of people who said religion was very important in their lives falls below the national average of 57 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

About seven out of eight students who gave an opinion said they were attractive compared to their peers at Brown. Of all respondents, 15.1 percent said they were very attractive, while 57.1 percent said they were somewhat attractive.


Full poll results

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Ruth Simmons is handling her job as president of Brown?

Strongly approve: 37.7%

Somewhat approve: 39.8%

Somewhat disapprove: 4.5%

Strongly disapprove: 1.7%

Don’t know / No answer: 16.4%


2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) is handling

its job?

Strongly approve: 9.8%

Somewhat approve: 38.8%

Somewhat disapprove: 6.4%

Strongly disapprove: 1.6%

Don’t know / No answer: 43.3%


3. Would you approve or disapprove of eliminating dining hall tableslips in favor of centralized announcements, either elsewhere on campus or on the Internet?

Strongly approve: 27.3%

Somewhat approve: 25.1%

Somewhat disapprove: 25.6%

Strongly disapprove: 17.9%

Don’t know / No answer: 4.1%


4. How often this semester have you used resources or services— including drop-in hours and events — provided by the Career Development Center either online or in person?

0 times: 41.9%

1-2 times: 38.0%

3-4 times: 12.5%

5-6 times: 4.2%

7 or more times: 2.2%

Don’t know / No answer: 1.3%


5. What is your current relationship status?

Single: 59.4%

In an exclusive relationship: 33.6%

In a non-exclusive relationship: 3.4%

Engaged or married: 0.4%

Other: 1.5%

Don’t know / No answer: 1.7%


6. On average, how many hours per week have you worked for pay this semester?

0 hours: 42.3%

More than 0, less than or equal to 3 hours: 7.4%

More than 3, less than or equal to 6 hours: 11.9%

More than 6, less than or equal to 9 hours: 12.6%

More than 9, less than or equal to 12 hours: 9.9%

More than 12, less than or equal to 15 hours: 4.8%

More than 15 hours: 9.5%

Don’t know / No answer: 1.5%


7. How confident or worried are you about your or your family’s ability to finance your Brown education?

Very confident: 36.4%

Somewhat confident: 32.4%

Somewhat worried: 18.8%

Very worried: 10.2%

Don’t know / No answer: 2.2%


8. Compared to your peers at Brown, how physically attractive or unattractive do you consider yourself?

Very attractive: 15.1%

Somewhat attractive: 57.1%

Somewhat unattractive: 8.8%

Very unattractive: 1.5%

Don’t know / No answer: 17.4%


9. Do you approve or disapprove of Brown Concert Agency’s choices to play at Spring Weekend: Snoop Dogg, MGMT, Major Lazer, the Black Keys and Wale?

Strongly approve: 42.4%

Somewhat approve: 37.3%

Somewhat disapprove: 9.7%

Strongly disapprove: 2.7%

Don’t know / No answer: 8.0%


10. How important or unimportant is religion in your life?

Very important: 18.1%

Somewhat important: 26.2%

Somewhat unimportant: 17.2%

Very unimportant: 33.5%

Don’t know / No answer: 5.0%



Written questionnaires were administered to 714 undergraduates in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson and in the Sciences Library on March 22 and 23. To ensure random sampling, pollsters approached every third person and asked each one to complete a poll. The poll has a 3.5 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence.

The sample polled was demographically similar to the Brown undergraduate population as a whole. The sample was 51.1 percent male, 48.7 percent female and 0.1 percent other. First-years made up 25.8 percent of the sample, 29.3 percent were sophomores, 20.4 percent were juniors and 24.5 percent were seniors. Of those polled, 65.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 18.9 percent as Asian, 10.9 percent as Hispanic, 6.6 percent as black, 1.0 percent as American Indian or Alaska Native and 0.8 percent as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Also, 4.1 percent identified with a racial group or ethnicity not listed and 1.1 percent chose not to answer. The sum of the percentages is greater than 100 percent due to respondents who identified with multiple ethnic or racial groups.

Senior Staff Writers Ana Alvarez ’13, Alex Bell ’13 and Talia Kagan ’12 and Arts & Culture Editor Suzannah Weiss ’12 coordinated the poll. Herald section editors, senior staff writers and other staff members conducted the poll.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *