MCSG bylaws amended regarding survey techniques

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At its last meeting of the year, the MCSG Legislative Board voted to amend its bylaws and pass a bill that would require MCSG-issued surveys to meet a 50 percent response rate before they can be considered reflective of student opinion.

The Accuracy of Information Act, introduced by Audrey Kohout ‘14, was passed 15-2, clearing the two-thirds vote threshold required to amend the bylaws.

After consulting with Statistics professor Alicia Johnson, Kohout determined that MCSG was receiving inconclusive survey data that wasn’t indicative of the entire student body, “due to poor polling responses and practices inherent within the current system,” according to the bill’s preamble.

“It’s really easy to exclude people and voices through surveys and data that don’t encourage everyone to respond,” said Kohout. “This [information] is really simple stuff to get, and would provide a baseline of accuracy in our surveys.”

As passed, the bill will require MCSG-commissioned surveys to be sent to a random sample size of no fewer than 500 students at minimum. To be considered officially reflective of student opinion, at least 50 percent of the participants are required to respond. The bill empowers MCSG to encourage survey participation through regular emails and “impose other methods as the Executive Board sees fit.”

However, the Legislative Board may still vote to act on incomplete survey data, with the condition that the data isn’t treated as representative of the whole student body.

The initial draft of the bill, as proposed, restricted MCSG to issuing no more than four surveys per semester. However, that provision was struck under an amendment, which was unanimously agreed upon.

Rothin Datta ‘16 introduced two amendments on behalf of Vice President Kai Peterson ‘13, who was absent. The first would have limited the 50 percent threshold to cases where official referenda were involved, and the second would have removed the mandatory 500-person sample size. Both failed with only one yea vote in both cases.

“It’s not saying that half of the students have to agree with something, it’s just saying that half of them have to respond, which is very reasonable,” said Megan Renslow ‘15, who supported the bill and opposed both amendments.

Merita Bushi ‘14 opposed the amendments as well, saying she was reassured by the section which allowed MCSG to act on the data were 50 percent not to be achieved, and because referenda are fairly rare, it would be self-defeating to limit the bill to just those occurrences.

Sarah Vandelist ‘15 expressed concern that the bill was nondescript on how to achieve a random sample, and suggested that guidelines be provided for how to locate that sample.

“If we wanted to make a random sample, there should be guidelines,” said Vandelist.

Kohout was glad that the bill passed, “even though it wasn’t exactly the bill I wanted to pass… I think this bill, while it does set some baseline requirements, mostly just reminds MCSG that data matters, students opinions and time matter.”

To strengthen the bill’s standing, the LB passed it as an amendment to the MCSG bylaws, instead of under normal voting procedure. Because the decision to pass this bill as an amendment to the bylaws wasn’t made until midway through the meeting, it wasn’t made clear where specifically the bylaws will be amended. That decision will come in the near future.