Approval ratings survey reveals broad approval of College’s COVID response

Annie Lu, Executive Editor for News

Rachel Buccalo/The Williams Record

Last week, the Record sent its biannual approval ratings survey to 500 randomly selected students, who were given the option to indicate whether they “approve,” “disapprove” or feel “neutral” regarding various campus figures, institutions and policies.

The results of the survey revealed broad approval of the College’s response to COVID-19, though most institutions experienced a decrease in approval as compared to last spring.

Of the 168 respondents — a response rate of 34 percent — 33 percent were first-years, 23 percent were sophomores, 21 percent were juniors and 23 percent were seniors. Seventy-four percent of students who responded said they were enrolled on campus in the fall, indicating that the survey’s sample was skewed slightly towards on-campus students. Only 2 percent of respondents said they were taking time off, with 20 percent enrolled remotely and the remainder either enrolled in-person but living off campus or studying abroad.

Compared to the results of the approval ratings survey from the spring 2020 semester, approval of the College remained the same at 86 percent, while approval of President Maud S. Mandel and the faculty both dropped by 5 percent to 72 and 88 percent, respectively.

Student approval of the College’s overall response to COVID-19 experienced the greatest increase, from 77 percent in the spring to 91 percent this semester. Approval of the Record also significantly increased by 11 percent, from 57 percent in the spring to 68 percent in the fall. The Career Center’s approval rating improved by 8 percent over the spring semester, up to 55 percent.

Students were broadly in favor of the College’s policies in response to the pandemic, with 94 percent approving of the College’s decision to allow students to return to campus in the fall. Seventy-eight percent of respondents approved of the College’s testing protocol, with 0 percent disapproving. However, a comparatively low 64 percent approved of the College’s public health guidelines and their implementation, with 7 percent disapproving.

Rachel Buccalo/The Williams Record

However, most institutions experienced a decrease in approval compared to the previous spring. The Office of International Education and Study Away saw the steepest decline in approval rating by 13 percent, down to 30 percent this fall from 43 percent in the spring. The Office of Information Technology and Dining Services also experienced drops in approval of 11 and 10 percent to 44 and 58 percent approval, respectively.

The student government body has consistently received the lowest approval rating in recent years, a trend which continues this fall. The Three Pillars experienced a decline in approval from 21 to 12 percent and was also the survey item most disapproved of, at 13 percent disapproval. The other 85 percent of students expressed a neutral attitude toward the Three Pillars.

While student approval of the Health Center fell slightly from 46 to 45 percent, the disapproval rate went from 21 percent disapproving to 8 percent, an improvement of 13 percent.

The following items were also surveyed:

  • Dean’s Office: 48 percent approve, 8 percent disapprove, 44 percent neutral
  • Entry system: 52 percent approve, 10 percent disapprove, 38 percent neutral
  • Neighborhood system: 24 percent approve, 10 percent disapprove, 67 percent neutral
  • Registrar: 46 percent approve, 4 percent disapprove, 50 percent neutral
  • Athletics department: 39 percent approve, 9 percent disapprove, 52 percent neutral
  • Zilkha center: 49 percent approve, 4 percent disapprove, 48 percent neutral
  • Academic resources: 64 percent approve, 3 percent disapprove, 33 percent neutral

Not all percentages may add up to 100 due to rounding.