Issues Poll Sheds Light on Top Student Wishes

Well over 1300 HBS students recently completed the second annual Student Issues Poll, an online survey developed by the Student Association (SA) to help the SA focus its efforts on the issues of greatest importance to HBS students. Mini Desai (OK), SA Co-President, said, “The students did a phenomenal job rallying together and giving their input. We really want to thank everyone.”

Participation skyrockets
SA and administration leaders were elated with the level of student participation in the poll, which increased by over 100% relative to the prior year. The poll was completed by 847 of 918 RC students (92%) and 491 of 842 EC students (58%). Explaining the high turnout among the first years, Brad Staats (NB) said, “My section knew how important it was.”
MBA Student Life and the SA kicked in to offer several incentives to sections to complete the poll. Section OF, represented by Senator Patty Wu, had the highest EC participation rate of 99% and won a free section night in the Spangler Grille with beer, other beverages, and hors d’oeuvres. Two RC sections, NC and NI, represented by Senators Michael Dal Bello, and Kevin Mohr, respectively, had perfect 100% participation. They won separate section nights at Spangler, as well as free section lunches. The competition between some sections was intense – when OG was encroaching on OF’s lead, one member of OF actually called half his section to determine who hadn’t filled out the poll yet.

Conley Wake, OG, a member of the SA Executive Committee said “What this high turnout does is give the SA more credibility with the administration. By having compelling data to back up student recommendations, more is likely to get done.”

How the poll was developed

Section Senators solicited ideas for poll initiatives in the two weeks prior to the launch of the poll. Many dozens of suggestions were made. Additionally, some high priority initiatives from the last poll, which weren’t completed this year, were added back in to the new one (e.g., improving the add/drop process for EC course selection). The poll included 10 major categories such as education/curriculum, technology, recruiting/career planning, and healthcare, a new addition this year. Most categories included several initiatives students were asked to rank in importance.

Results and next steps

Most of the initiatives in the poll were supported by a majority of the student body so the SA will use the priority rankings to develop the SA Agenda, the official ranked listing of student priorities, for next year. See the tables on page 3 for a high level, partial snapshot of the poll results. Complete, detailed copies of the results in electronic format may be obtained from your Section Senator.

The SA Co-Presidents, including Mini Desai and the author, were pleased that the poll seemed to have captured most of the top action items students currently desire. An optional poll question asked students to indicate any issues not covered in the poll. Although over 250 students provided responses to the question, most of the responses were unique (i.e., not repeated by others). Further, less than four percent of those completing the poll ranked an additional issue/initiative as one of their top two personal priorities.

A final poll question asked RC students to indicate their interest in being involved with any of the initiatives detailed in the poll. Seventy-three (73) students expressed interest in being involved, a number which was encouraging to many current SA leaders.

In the next few weeks the Class of 2002 will be electing a new pair of SA Co-Presidents, who will be responsible for working with the Senate to develop and implement a new SA Agenda based on the poll results. Once the SA Agenda is developed, it will be shared with the MBA Program Administration so that they can consider the results during summer planning sessions for next year, increasing the likelihood that some of the requested changes will be enacted in the near future. Said Mini Desai, “Given this phenomenal turnout, we’ve really gotten a good indication of what is important to students and this sets the pace for next year.”

Several improvements to the HBS experience resulted directly or indirectly from last spring’s poll. These enhancements included such things as a new spam system resulting in a dramatic reduction in spam, extended operating hours at Shad, expanded availability of one-on-one career counseling, better student-administration communication, and extended weekend dining hours. Focus was also brought to bear on longer-term issues like improving career services and the add/drop process for selecting EC courses (changes to both are currently underway). Funding was allocated to a class affiliation project to improve the connection between the September and January Cohorts of the Class of 2002, and Admit Day was redesigned to improve the external image of HBS and its student body. Several other initiatives from last spring’s poll are still being implemented, such as developing better resources for finding off-campus housing. Few of these initiatives would have happened without the active leadership and backing of the administration, which has supported most of the high priority initiatives that resulted from last spring’s Student Issues Poll.