College warns of phony phone survey

The College has alerted townspeople, students, faculty and staff about a fake phone survey being conducted by a man claiming to call on behalf of the College. Security first learned of the phone calls last week when a number of students reported being called in their rooms and asked questions by the man, who promised that participation could net them hundreds of dollars as a reward.

The man asked personal questions, said Dave Boyer, associate director of Security, although he would not elaborate on the specific nature of the inquiries.

Boyer was not available for comment on Monday and did not return e-mails seeking an update on the situation.

Phone surveys by College professors are not unheard of. Often, psychology, political science and economics professors, predominantly, use the method to collect information. Keith Finan, associate provost and director of grant administration, who oversees any surveys that the College conducts, said that the only way of verifying whether a surveyor is, in fact, an employee of the College doing legitimate research would be to contact the Provost’s office or Security. However, Finan said, in general faculty will use written surveys that provide a return address at the College.

Finan also said faculty do not normally offer monetary compensation. “Occasionally a faculty member will offer something of value, although usually a very modest amount ($10 to $15) and often in the form of a gift certificate,” he said. “Typically, telephone surveys are not rewarded.”

If a faculty member does conduct a survey, he or she must also follow the standards established by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). “The Federal Government, through the Dept. of Health and Human Services, has standards and procedures for assessing the risk that research (including surveys) poses for human subjects,” Finan said. “If a research project is funded by federal grant money the survey must be reviewed by the College’s IRB,” he said.