Administrators Say Survey Indicates Satisfaction With First J-Term

Stephanie Wang

The overwhelming majority of undergraduates spent this past January Term with family and friends, using the time to exercise, relax, and catch up on sleep, according to a survey conducted by the College administration to evaluate the inaugural month-long winter break.

After announcing the College’s logistics and programming for the upcoming January Term last Friday, administrators provided The Crimson with part of the results of a student survey they conducted to evaluate the first J-Term.

The student survey data—which had a response rate of 42.3 percent—along with the results of a survey of faculty members and reports from various offices within the College, was used to determine the plans for next year’s J-Term, according to Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.

“We did the surveys because we wanted to hear directly from students what the experience was like for them,” she said. “They became one piece of the assessment.”

Hammonds wrote in the announcement that the College’s decision on J-Term 2011—which will be similar to J-Term 2010, except that all undergraduates will be welcome back on campus eight days before the start of the spring semester—was partially motivated by the undergraduate survey, which she said indicated “students’ overwhelming satisfaction” with the inaugural J-Term.

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According to the survey, 97 percent of students polled reported that they visited family and friends, and 85 percent said they were able to relax and catch up on sleep.

“It was clear that students were happy to have time to relax and rest while on campus, or to pursue opportunities away from Cambridge,” she wrote in the statement.

The survey also offers a picture of how the estimated 1,000 students allowed to stay at Harvard used available resources and what they thought about their on-campus experiences.

Almost three-quarters of respondents said they went to Annenberg—the only dining hall that was open during J-Term—often or very often, while 10 percent said they never went to Annenberg.

Nearly half of students who remained on campus listed the location of Annenberg Hall as a problem. The next most common complaint, cited by 15 percent of on-campus students, was that they missed having a social group and felt lonely.

In response to this concern, Houses will be organizing more social events during J-Term for students who remain at Harvard, according to Hammonds’s announcement to the College.

Despite the complaints, Annenberg Hall, which has the largest serving capacity of any of the undergraduate dining halls, will still be the only dining hall open next January until all students are allowed to return, according to Hammonds.

She added that the College is working to respond to cases of student dissatisfaction in other areas.

“For example, students said the Hemenway Gym was packed. We’re working hard to have the [Malkin Athletic Center] open,” Hammonds said.

Three percent of students surveyed said they wished the MAC had been open during the break, while eight percent of students on campus complained about the lack of programming or things to do.

Next year, the College will allow students to return eight days before classes start, in part so that they can participate in student-initiated programming. During this period, all campus facilities—such as dining halls, shuttles, gyms, and libraries—will operate on a normal term-time basis.

The College also compiled approximately 270 pages of qualitative student responses which were not released due to privacy concerns.

—Staff writer Melody Y. Hu can be reached at melodyhu@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.

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