Poll shows Hens want more engagement
Students desire a university president who can engage students and more enforcement of the tobacco policy on campus, among other findings, according to the 2015 student-conducted survey.
The annual Blue Hen Poll conducted by the political science department surveyed a random selection of students about the search for the next university president, student loans, the university’s tobacco policy, the 2016 presidential campaigns and marijuana regulation.
Students poll others through the political science department with goals of providing undergraduate students real world experience in conducting and analyzing polling data, said the class’s professor, Paul Brewer of the communications department. The other goal is to give students an outlet to voice their opinions on important university topics.
Junior Shannon Poulsen, one of the students who conducted a survey, called the poll fascinating because it acts as a thermometer of student opinion. Junior Abigail Goldring agreed, pointing out that polls by students and for students act as a way to connect the university administration to students.
The search for the next university president was a major topic in the poll.
Of the 916 student respondents, 70 percent said they were either not closely following or not following the presidential search at all.
“I think the concerning part is the apathy amongst students,” Goldring said.
Despite this, the “ability to engage students” was overwhelmingly students’ top concern in attributes of the next president.
“Students want to be engaged because otherwise what interaction do we have with the president? What does he do that affects my day to day?” Poulsen said. “I think that’s what’s unknown to students, and that is where the apathy comes from.”
Asked about the importance of several abilities or attributes of the next president, 47 percent of students listed “ability to engage students” as their top choice. 27 percent listed their top choice as “experience in university administration.”
Less popular were the abilities to promote research, to fund-raise, to promote diversity, to engage the local community and to have been previously connected to UD. Each of these options were selected first between four and six percent of the time.
Least important? The ability to promote athletics.
The survey also attempted to gauge the effectiveness of the campus smoking ban. Though the ban went into effect last year, 94 percent of respondents said they personally witnessed someone using tobacco on campus and 93 percent said they generally did not see the policy being enforced.
“I was just talking to student body president Ben Page-Gil and he said the intention behind the policy was more of an honor code,” Poulsen said.
It was not meant to be implemented through people writing tickets or fines for offenders, but for the freshmen to be introduced to a campus that already had banned smoking and promote that policy, she said.
The tobacco survey was the only survey to receive significant feedback in the open-ended section included in each survey. The majority of answers reflected that students were frustrated with the uselessness of the policy.
“The tobacco policy is a joke,” one respondent wrote. “I just saw someone smoking on campus 10 minutes ago.”
The marijuana portion of the survey showed student opinions were following national trends, with the majority favoring the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they had tried marijuana before.
On the topic of abortion, 77 percent of female respondents said abortion is a very or somewhat important issue, versus 43 percent of male respondents.
The survey also included questions about satisfaction with the university that have been included in every Blue Hen Poll given. As in previous Blue Hen surveys, this year’s poll found high satisfaction with the university, Brewer said.
“Over the past five or six years the trends have been very stable,” he said. “That’s also a good sign that our sample from this year is similar to samples from previous years.”
The poll began with sending a random sample size of 5,000 students surveys between March 25 and April 15. There were 916 recorded responses, producing an 18 percent response rate, Brewer said.