The Tufts Community Union Senate published the findings of its Fall Exit Survey in a report released on Feb. 8. The survey was conducted in order to gauge students’ thoughts and sentiments regarding life on campus in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The report outlines survey results on academics, physical and mental health services, COVID-19 protocols, financial aid and employment, housing, dining halls and food services, the Tufts University Police Department and safety, transportation, campus life, campus spaces and commencement.
The survey and its report were conducted and compiled by TCU’s Administration and Policy Committee, led by Chair Ibrahim AlMuasher and Senators Trenton DeBonis, Valerie Infante and Annika Witt. TCU Senate President Sarah Wiener and Senator Claire Bolash provided additional support in the writing and reviewing process of the report.
The Fall Exit Survey is the second major survey to be conducted by TCU Senate after Tufts began adapting to the pandemic, the first survey being the Fall 2020 Student Feedback Survey that was released in June 2020 to determine students’ hopes and expectations for the fall 2020 semester. The Fall Exit Survey was conducted to provide direction for TCU senators in their future projects, in addition to providing an assessment of how students’ interests are being met during the pandemic.
“The purpose of the survey was to [gauge] students’ thoughts and concerns around issues so that when Senators get to work on projects related to those issues, we can be accountable for doing so in good faith,” Wiener wrote in an email to the Daily. Additionally, when information like this is public, it can serve as a measure for the community as to what extent decision-makers are acting in students’ interests or balancing their decisions with the interests of other stakeholders in the Tufts community.”
Of the main findings of the report, one of the most striking is students’ responses about their overall academic experience.
“The most common issue cited as impacting a student’s learning and experience this semester was ‘lack of engagement with other students in classes,’ as stated by 389 [of the 478 total] respondents,” the report said. “The second most cited issue was ‘social isolation,’ by 357 respondents, and the third most cited issue was ‘mental health difficulties,’ by 280 respondents.”
While acknowledging the wide scope of issues outlined by the report, AlMuasher found the data on students’ mental health to be the most profound.
“The most terrifying data, I think at least for myself, was looking at the data related to mental health and how people felt during last semester,” AlMuasher said. “Just thinking about ways that [Counseling and Mental Health Services], for example, could be empowered to support more students and create longer-term relationships with students and longer-term support … is something that I think is a very valuable idea that I wasn’t really thinking about before this survey was conducted.”
TCU senators crafted the recommendations that were included in the report with the input of a large group of people.
“The recommendations are actually the work of the whole team, discussions between me and Sarah, and people on A&P, as well as people in other committees and what we have heard from other senators and our friends around campus,” AlMuasher said.
The Tufts administration has received TCU Senate’s recommendations and is currently reviewing them, according to Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations at Tufts.
“We appreciate and welcome the TCU Senate’s recommendations, across many areas of university operations, that it has developed from the exit survey,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily. “The suggestions are being reviewed and considered by each of the units to which the report was provided … We’re grateful for the input and the TCU Senate’s continued collaboration.”
According to AlMuasher, TCU Senate is forming working groups to prepare discussions with the Tufts administration on the various topics outlined in the report. Each working group is led by a member of the Administration and Policy Committee.
“Our goal in trying to create these working groups is to make sure that [the administration] gets a chance to discuss the results with students and to actually work on the recommendations that we have put forth,” AlMuasher said.
As these working groups move forward in their discussions with campus officials, AlMuasher said he believes some of the outlined recommendations, such as increasing email communication with the financial aid office and promoting the use of reusable bags at the dining halls, will be more tangibly implemented than others, like encouraging the Police Advisory Working Group, Tufts University Police Department Chief and members of the administration to “work with student and faculty organizations to evaluate and overhaul [Tufts University Police Department] policies that make [Tufts University Police Department’s] active harm to students of color permissible.”
AlMuasher noted that the inclusion of certain questions on the Fall Exit Survey was recommended by the Tufts administration itself, such as questions on workload and commencement.
“[The administration] is looking for student [voices], so this is maybe a reason why the survey could be helpful and why there can be some optimism about it,” AlMuasher said.