Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Student Senate survey reveals areas of focus for Student Senate projects

graph by Savannah Shustack

Calvin’s Student Senate releases a yearly survey to gauge student opinion on several topics relevant to campus life. This year’s survey revealed student concern with campus safety, a desire for more outdoor gathering spaces and political trends somewhat consistent with last year’s data. 

Over 670 students — about 20% of the entire student body that includes graduate students, Life and Career Studies students etc. or about 24% of the body of traditional undergraduates — responded to the survey. Women students were overrepresented in the sample size, and first-years were also slightly overrepresented due to higher response rates. However, given the relative sizes of each class, each year had a rather proportionate response, according to Berend de Boo, student body president. While it is unclear if this data is representative of the student body as a whole, self-reported religious affiliation data in the Student Senate data coincides with Calvin’s census day data regarding religious affiliation. 

This year’s Student Senate survey was “more concise” than surveys that Senate has released in previous years to allow respondents “to be able to finish it quickly and honestly,” according to de Boo. Therefore, it focused largely on gathering new ideas for senate projects and evaluating the usefulness of past senate initiatives. 

The findings of particular interest to de Boo and the Student Senate included students’ judgment of safety on campus, the ways students report they are involved in campus life and consistent requests for more outdoor recreation or study space –– the last of which de Boo postulated might be due to the library’s second-floor closure. 

While Calvin students say on average they feel safe on campus — evaluated on a sliding scale of zero to 100 — de Boo is interested in the few low scores that bring the generally high ones down to a final average of 78. “While the number itself is not terrible, you’d think that on a small Christian campus, like a liberal arts campus, that number can be higher. … When you look at the individual answers … there’s obviously a group of students that’s very concerned about it, giving zeroes, ones, threes, fives. On a scale of zero to 100, so that should be a big concern,” he said. The Student Senate and Calvin administration are currently working toward implementing more safety measures, according to previous Chimes reporting.

Senate also wanted to evaluate how many students are engaged with student organizations, and in what capacities they are finding and participating in the community on campus. “I mean, one of the bigger issues over the past year, especially post-COVID and pre-that in higher ed, is involvement,” according to de Boo. Across survey respondents, around 31% of students participated in student organization leadership or regularly attended events. 41% occasionally attended student organization events, and 28% rarely attended or were uninterested in attending student organization events. 

Open-answer questions, as well as a project-ranking question, indicated to de Boo that students were interested in more outdoor spaces, like the fireplace outside the library. “So in response to that, we are currently working with Dr. [Sarah] Visser on creating one more closer by the dorms that should be accessible all seasons,” he said. 

Questions asked last year regarding political opinion and perception were largely cut, but some demographic information was still included. This survey, as compared to last year’s data, continues to evidentiate a trend toward an increasing number of students who identify with the Republican party. Around 39% of respondents said they most closely identified with the Republican party, about 30% said they most closely identified with the Democratic party and 31% most closely identified as an independent or as apolitical. 

For comparison, in the fall of 2022, 37% of students were Republican, 30% were Democrat, and 33% were independent or other. According to previous Chimes reporting, respondents from Calvin’s student body have grown to lean more Republican than Democratic over the last few years. It is unclear if this is a trend in the population as a whole; in the 2023 survey, about 100 survey respondents skipped this question. 

Responses to 2023 survey question: “As a Christian Institution, Calvin’s community is diverse in thought and opinion.” (graph by Savannah Shustack)

This kind of political diversity is unusual; the College Pulse survey conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression indicated that out of 253 schools surveyed, only 20 had a majority conservative student population, and “the average liberal-to-conservative student ratio on the 232 liberal campuses is 5:1.” 

Many students recognize Calvin’s diversity; 82% of survey respondents indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that “as a Christian institution, Calvin’s community is diverse in thought and opinion.” 

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