UB is sponsoring a survey conducted by StudentVoice, a marketing research company run by graduates of the School of Management. This survey, which polls only newly-enrolled graduate students, asks such questions as why they chose UB, what they look for in a graduate school, and what they like or dislike about the university.
By analyzing the data, the administration hopes to devise ways to boost graduate enrollment, to improve the academic quality of the graduates, and to address the university's weaknesses. This initiative is in response to a SUNY memorandum that called for schools to enroll high-caliber graduates and increase research activities.
The SUNY memorandum sets forth worthy goals, and the administration should also be commended for using its own graduates in conducting the survey. But, the way the survey was designed begs one large question: why were newly enrolled graduates the only ones asked to take part?
It defies logic to ignore the experienced knowledge of UB's seasoned graduates, who are more prepared to identify the positive and negative attributes of their university. Why didn't the administration ask StudentVoice to seek responses from graduates who have experience in the rigors of the School of Management?
While gauging student opinion in an effort to improve the school is a good idea, the omission of upper-level graduate responses reflects at best a grave oversight, or at worst, a further indication that UB is in danger of overlooking the necessity of responding to its flaws in the quest to bolster recruitment.
After being analyzed, the data is eventually funneled to a recruiter so it can be used for promotional advantages. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with this; StudentVoice is providing an excellent and efficiently researched opportunity to expound the benefits of graduate school at UB.
But the recruiter will be singing praises that voice less than half the song. The problems experienced only by veteran graduate students will be ignored in favor of those faced by applicants, who will then themselves be forced to grapple with the same unresolved issues once they matriculate.
Eric Reich, president of StudentVoice, told the Spectrum, "UB has come under criticism as being a school that does not respond to the needs of students." Ironically, if the survey does not address the concerns of its own graduates, it is committing the very mistake this survey purportedly tries to prevent.
The administration wants to spot check and patch up problems that are exposed in the surveys. For instance, if a concern of the students were post-graduate job opportunities, the administration would work to improve the accessibility of Career Planning and Placement. It is reassuring to see the administration actively working to improve such very real problems.
UB could do without more troubling situations, such as surveys revealing its students are unhappy, or volatile TA teach-ins. No matter how complicated the details of these issues are, they ultimately reflect a lack of communication between students and their administrators. For a positive step, the Faculty Senate plans to hold a discussion of TA stipends this Wednesday.
But if the administrators really want to improve the quality of their research institution, they need to hear its weaknesses from those who have spent years studying and working within it. If the ultimate goal is improving the academics and quality of life of the university, rather than simply to comply with a top-down SUNY dictate, the StudentVoice survey should be revised to include all current graduate students.
As a long-term goal, the university ought to seriously consider devising a similar survey geared towards the undergraduate population.