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Poll results reveal student apathy toward strategic plan, UCS

Students responded to questions about divestment from coal, gender-neutral bathrooms and masturbation

See interactive graphic, full results and methodology.


About two-thirds of undergraduates either did not have an opinion on President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan or had not heard of it, according to a Herald poll conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

More than half of the student body supported divesting the University’s endowment from large U.S. coal companies, the poll showed, while students’ approval of Paxson’s performance as president remained mostly steady from last semester.

A majority of students had no opinion of the Undergraduate Council of Students’ performance, while about 29 percent approved of the body’s handling of its job. About 9 percent disapproved.

Students were split over whether to make all multi-user restrooms in residence halls gender-neutral: Roughly three-quarters supported converting at least some restrooms, but only about 28 percent endorsed converting all. About 15 percent did not support converting any restrooms, and about 10 percent said they had no opinion on the issue.

Roughly three-quarters of students drew from their parents’ income and savings to help finance their education at Brown, while about 40 percent of students reported they relied on their own income and savings to do so.


University politics

About 52 percent of students supported divestment of University endowment funds from large U.S. coal companies, as the activist group Brown Divest Coal has advocated. About 30 percent responded they somewhat agreed with divestment, and about 22 percent strongly agreed. About 20 percent of students reported having no opinion on the issue, while about 14 percent were opposed to divesting the University’s endowment, including about 8 percent who somewhat disagreed and about 6 percent who strongly disagreed with divestment. About 13 percent said they were not familiar enough with the topic to provide an opinion.

Though the strategic plan Paxson released last month has generated debate and discussion about the University’s priorities over the next decade, the percentage of students expressing no opinion of Paxson’s handling of her presidency remains unchanged from last semester, and her approval rating has changed only slightly. About 43 percent expressed approval of Paxson — an about 2 percent dip from the Herald’s spring 2013 poll results — while about 48 percent of students had no opinion of her job performance and about 9 percent disapproved.

Almost half of students — about 49 percent — had heard of the strategic plan but said they were not familiar enough with its details to have an opinion. Most of those who had an opinion approved of the plan, “Building on Distinction” — about 7 percent of students strongly approved, and about 21 percent somewhat approved. About 7 percent of students somewhat disapproved of the plan, and about 2 percent strongly disapproved. About 16 percent of students said they had not heard of the plan.

The majority of students, close to 56 percent, expressed no opinion of the Undergraduate Council of Students’ handling of its job, and about 6 percent of respondents had not heard of the group. Close to 8 percent disapproved of the group.

Since fall 2011 — the last time the student body was polled on UCS’ performance — overall approval of the group decreased from about 38 to about 29 percent. About 7 percent of students strongly approved of the organization’s performance, and about 22 percent somewhat approved.


Personal lives

About 48 percent of students responded they expected to get married between the ages of 25 and 29, and about 28 percent of students expected to marry between the ages of 30 and 34. About 2 percent reported they intended to marry between 35 and 39 and  about 3 percent between 18 and 24. About 3 percent of respondents did not intend to marry at all, while about 15 percent were unsure at what age they intended to marry.

Females were likelier to say they expected to marry younger, with about 59 percent anticipating marriage before age 29. Males showed greater variety, with about 39 percent expecting to marry between ages 25 and 29 and about 34 percent choosing the 30 to 34 range.

About 87 percent of students said they had not been prescribed medication for mental health conditions within the past five years. About 8 percent reported having been prescribed medication for depression during this time period, while about 8 percent had been prescribed medication for anxiety, about 3 percent for attention deficit disorder and about 1 percent for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One percent of students had also been prescribed medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder, about 1 percent for bipolar disorder, 0.1 percent for schizophrenia and about 1 percent for another mental health condition.

About 26 percent of students reported masturbating once or twice a week, with about 17 percent reporting they masturbated 3 to 5 times a week and about 15 percent reporting once or twice a month. About 8 percent of students said they masturbate once a day, while about 1 percent reported masturbating more than once a day. About 14 percent reported that they masturbate less than once a month, and about 19 percent reported never having masturbated.

These percentages varied with gender. About 30 percent of females and about 6 percent of males responded that they had never masturbated. About 17 percent of males said they masturbated daily, compared to only about 3 percent of females. Class year also correlated with masturbation frequency, with about 27 percent of first-years reporting never having masturbated, compared to about 13 percent of both juniors and seniors.

Roughly 10 percent of poll respondents did not answer the masturbation question.


Other issues

Just under half the student body — about 47 percent — supported converting some, but not all, multi-user restrooms in residence halls to gender-neutral status, while about 28 percent favored turning all such restrooms gender-neutral. About 15 percent opposed converting any multi-user dorm restrooms to gender-neutral, while about 10 percent said they did not know.

Of multiple financing options that poll respondents could report, parents’ income and savings were the most common way students reported they helped finance their Brown education, with about 75 percent of students reporting relying on parental assistance. About 40 percent reported using their own income and savings to help finance their education, and about 28 percent indicated they receive federal loans. About 52 percent reported receiving University grants and scholarships, though Brown’s 2012-2013 Common Data Set reported that 42 percent of full-time undergraduates fell into that category, excluding students whose aid was only in a self-help form.

About 24 percent of students said they accessed non-University grants and scholarships, and about 13 percent received financial contributions from non-parental relatives and friends. About 6 percent said their parents borrowed money from outside sources, about 3 percent of students said they themselves borrowed from outside sources and about 8 percent said they did not rely on any of these options to help finance their Brown education.

About two-thirds of students said they felt their previous academic experience effectively prepared them to concentrate in a science, technology, engineering or math field — also known as STEM — though not all of these students said they were pursuing or were planning to pursue one of these concentrations. About 34 percent responded that they felt prepared to concentrate in one of these fields and were either planning to concentrate or had already declared in a STEM concentration. About 24 percent responded that they felt prepared but were not concentrating in or planning to concentrate in one of these fields, and about 9 percent said they felt prepared but were unsure of their concentration.

About 12 percent of students indicated they felt insufficiently prepared but still were concentrating or planned on concentrating in a STEM field. About 6 percent of respondents were not concentrating in a STEM field because they felt unprepared to do so, while about 10 percent said they felt unprepared but would not have concentrated in one of these fields even if they had felt more prepared. About 5 percent of students felt unprepared and were unsure of their concentration.

Financial aid status correlated with students’ perceived preparedness. About 47 percent of those with all their tuition covered by grants said they felt unprepared to major in a STEM concentration, compared to only about 25 percent of those receiving no financial aid from the University.

Students were divided over how significant a role standardized tests should play in public high school graduation requirements, with about 41 percent responding that standardized tests should play a moderate role and about 40 percent favoring a small role for such tests. About 12 percent of students said standardized tests should play no role in public high schools’ graduation requirements, and about 2 percent expressed no opinion on the issue.



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