At the end of Fall quarter, as the holiday exodus from campus was in full swing, graduate students received an invitation to participate in a survey intended to explore graduate student needs “beyond coursework and research”. The email invitation stated, “our goal is to work with you to better align the resources the University provides with your most pressing needs”.
We were excited to be offered an opportunity to express these pressing needs and were thoroughly disappointed with this deeply flawed survey that appeared intent on focusing on our study skills and consumer habits while only tangentially addressing graduate student needs.
Matters of material importance to graduate students such as wages, lack of teaching opportunities, lack of funding, AR tuition, bad health care, lack of childcare, lack of interaction with faculty advisers, etc. were completely left out of the survey. The survey designers seemed more concerned with filling the next batch of glossy advertising material with meaningless dribble than with actually finding out about graduate student needs.
As this survey was partly in response to Graduate Students United pressure on the administration to recognize the child care needs of graduate student parents, it includes questions for student parents — but only for students who are already parents. Aspiring student parents are excluded from expressing their projected needs as these questions are only accessible if you declare dependent children.
If this survey was intended to provide quick answers to fiscal planning it does not reassure us to know that the administration makes such decisions based on a methodologically flawed survey on surveymonkey.com. Rather, it indicates to us that the results of this survey function rather as a simulacra intended to assure us of the “valuable input” we provide in what is pretended to be a process in which our voices “count”. It is yet another sign that our needs as graduate students will not be substantially and meaningfully addressed unless we are recognized as employees and enjoy the right to bargain for our own conditions of employment.