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Columbia Spectator Staff

Undergraduate students are least satisfied with academic advising and career preparation and most satisfied with on-campus interviews and recruiting, new reports released Friday from the University Senate's quality of life survey reveal.

For both academics and career preparation, transgender students responded that they were significantly less satisfied than female and male students.


The numbers came in three draft reports released by the Senate's Student Affairs Committee during Friday's University Senate plenary. They provide demographic breakdowns based on gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and school to responses on academics, safety, and career preparations—three of the 13 categories included on the survey.

"Next semester, we're hoping to put all of them together in some kind of comprehensive report and use these to drive policy recommendations," Matthew Chou, CC '14 and the committee's co-chair, said during the brief presentation of the data. "We'd really love to have any feedback."

Though students were least satisfied with academic advising overall, Barnard students said they were more satisfied with their advising programs than did their peers at Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies.

Both undergraduate and graduate students said they were least satisfied with career preparation and most satisfied with on-campus interviews and recruiting.

Though the data was released at the plenary, the majority of the meeting was spent on another report by the senate's Online Learning Task Force, which evaluated Columbia's current approach to online education and surveyed students, faculty, and alumni about the state of online education at the University.

"We found that the demand for online courses is very high, especially among alumni," Sharyn O'Halloran, the chair of the senate's executive committee and the task force's chair, said. "Those who have taken online courses have found it to be a positive experience. But many folks have not had the opportunity to take these courses—so this is another opportunity."

The online report revealed that of the three groups surveyed, students are most concerned with how the courses are taught and interested in taking degree programs online, with 14 percent of current students responding that they would be "very interested" in taking an online course and 34 percent responding that they would be "somewhat interested."

"Our survey showed that faculty interest in online learning is somewhat lukewarm," O'Halloran said. "The main reason faculty weren't interested is because the classroom method was really viewed as the best pedagogy for their subject ... and a need to maintain academic standards."

"The students who are concerned are primarily concerned for reasons of pedagogy, and also that they believe the in-class experience is important," O'Halloran added.

The report suggested that Columbia should focus its efforts on the University's capacity to develop online course content, tailor programs to current students and faculty needs, and work to build more online programs for the global centers.

"This is a very, very important area, and it's been difficult to figure out how to proceed," University President Lee Bollinger said about the online report. "The ideas here are completely consistent with our thinking."

Provost John Coatsworth said that his office is working with the Senate to figure out a plan responding to the online report's findings.

"I think I hope by this spring we'll have a fully developed strategy for the University, which will build up what we've been doing." Coatsworth said. "We've learned a lot in the last few years."

During the plenary, senators also unanimously voted to approve a clinical doctorate in occupational therapy at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

O'Halloran also said that the Smoking Ban Implementation Task Force had met for a second time and was hoping to have a plan for implementation ready by January or February.  |  @sammcooney

Quality of Life Survey university senate academic advising College of Physicians and Surgeons smoking ban Office of the Provost