The Student Life Committee (SLC) met Tuesday with special guest Charles Clark, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, who is helping committee members sift through data from two national surveys.
Tuesday’s meeting focused on the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) surveys taken by incoming freshmen and seniors during spring term. According to Clark, the freshman survey is designed to gather data from students’ senior year in high school and their attitudes, and the complementary senior survey looks at how students have grown through college.
This meeting was largely designed to give some direction to Clark so that he may come back to the committee with the kind of data for which they are looking. He suggested that they go through the survey and give him some topics they would like to explore.
Committee members took some time to brainstorm some particular areas for Clark to research, and they proposed topics like time spent on academics and other aspects of campus life, attendance of cultural events, academic skills, safety and sexual/social responsibility and student behavioral patterns, among others.
Clark did include the caveat, though, that this data should be used mostly for looking at general trends or overarching ideas. These surveys, he said, are prone to some error.
Clark said he “wouldn’t base an entire decision” on a particular survey item, and one should “triangulate with all of the other surveys” for better results and finding accurate patterns.
Committee member and Professor of Biology Stuart Allison expressed his feeling that assessing this data properly is important for knowing how Knox compares to peer groups and marketing the college.
“I’ve argued for a long time that you’ll get more bang for your buck at Knox than almost any college in the country,” Allison said. “But I need to have some data that actually says, ‘Look, Knox students, when they leave, are actually achieving more than Grinnell students.’ It’d be nice to have that.”
Professor of Theatre and SLC chair Elizabeth Carlin-Metz talked about putting this discussion in the context of the academic mission and the looming prospect of the accreditation process.
“The purpose of this entire institution is the academic mission,” Carlin-Metz said. “And therefore, everything that’s done here is for the furtherance of the academic mission. … We ultimately, as higher education assessment moves further down the road, it is inevitable that every corner and pocket of an institution is going to be required to develop assessment strategies relative to its goals as they pertain to the academic mission of the institution.”
Allison, who said he is reluctant to completely give in to the national assessment craze, questioned the idea that everything should fall under the academic mission.
“In some ways, it’s inappropriate,” Allison said. “How does Flunk Day fit into the academic mission? We don’t need to assess that. We already know it’s just for fun, and it should remain just for fun.”
Carlin-Metz countered that if we are “challenged” on the issue of Flunk Day, we should be able to explain how it fits into the academic mission with not only fun but also community-building and stress relief.
SLC meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Borzello Hall 116. Next week’s meeting will cover campus safety and student well-being.