AMS survey highlights students’ safety concerns

Results from the AMS' student academic experience survey this year show many students are feeling unsafe on UBC’s campus.

These results are likely due to the widely publicized sexual assaults on campus and the offensive Frosh chants from some Sauder students, says AMS VP academic Anne Kessler, and those issues also prompted new survey questions this year.

“This year we added a set of questions around discrimination, and for the first time we asked students to report how they identified in terms of their race and ethnicity," said Kessler.

On the question of feeling safe on campus at night, from 2013 to 2014, female students responses showed a drop from 55 per cent to 31 per cent; students who identified as “other” in terms of gender dropped from 88 per cent to 35 per cent.

“Students have begun to feel significantly less safe on campus at night,” concluded the survey. One of the recommendations arising from these results involved reviewing the sexual assault counsellor position that the Commerce Undergraduate Society was obliged to put up $50,000 for in 2014 -- that was only a one year commitment.

"As of yet there hasn’t been a promise by the university that the funding will continue every year,” said Kessler, who notes the AMS is meeting with UBC's VP Students Office Wednesday, January 21 to start discussions around this and other issues.

Another new area of focus is counselling services. Last year, The Ubyssey reported that many students were being turned away from counselling services. A new survey question this year showed that only 36 per cent of students were satisfied with their counselling service experience and 35 per cent said they weren’t. Kessler says it’s a tough area to measure and the AMS will be working with the university to do more research on the subject.

"Students are going to counselling because they’re in a really difficult position so they might leave not being totally satisfied even if it was helpful for them in the end,” said Kessler. "There’s clearly a bit of a perception problem … if [students] need help they’re going to get help, and we don’t want a stigma around it."

Other recommendations from the survey involve pursuing academic policies to ensure syllabi are required for every course (no such policy exists currently), that syllabi are provided earlier on, around course registration time and that professors be required to have divulged a certain percentage of a students’ grades before final exams so that students may take corrective action if they’re doing poorly in a course. Some mature students commented about experiences with age discrimination and less engagement with the AMS, which Kessler says has prompted more partnership with the GSS to find out how to improve services to mature students.

The first academic experience survey was run in 2012 and collected about 2,000 responses. The latest survey collected 4,000 response: That’s about eight per cent of UBC Vancouver’s approximately 50,000 students. The previous surveys honed in on student stress as a core concern and those results have not changed significantly from year-to-year.

There were 20 recommendations arising from the 2012 and 2013 surveys combined and this year alone there were 16 new recommendations – nine of those focused on student support services and comfort on campus accounted for nine of them.