Name change: Circuit disputes District’s poll as biased; actual student views remain unclear

    According to a poll administered by the Seattle Community Colleges District (SCCD) via district-wide email, there is strong majority support from both students and staff for the Board of Trustees’ (BoT) proposal to remove “Community” from the district’s name and the names of all of its colleges. (For example, “Seattle Central Community College” would become “Seattle Central College.”) However, those results have been called into question, both by an independent poll administered by the Central Circuit and by some students and faculty.

    Among the students who are skeptical of the District’s results is SCCC student Carlos Hernandez (whose union-organizing efforts were featured in our Nov. ‘13 issue). He told a Feb. 13 BoT meeting that he thought the survey was biased. “I feel cheated by the [survey] that they sent me. It showed one side, it didn’t show both sides,” he said.

    Faculty union representative Kimberly McRae expressed concern regarding whose voices were and weren’t being heard.

    “When we talk about community, whose community are we talking about?” she said. “Is it the business community? The education community? Or are we talking about those others that utilize this survey that live in the community?”

    Commenting on the larger economic function of community colleges, BoT member Jorge Carrasco said that “most of us go to college to get trained so that we can get hired, earn a living, and support our families. From my vantage point it is really important for employers to weigh in on how they see the name change.”

    Two polls

    The District’s poll asked six questions about the proposal to remove “Community” from the District’s and schools’ names. The only appearance of the word “Community” in the poll was use of the Seattle Community Colleges’ full name in the first question. At no point did the poll explicitly express that the proposal is to remove “Community”; rather, respondents were asked about the “name change.” Further, every question in the poll was framed to ask whether respondents “agreed” with or “supported” the name change, and the majority of questions listed potential benefits of the name change.

    The Circuit’s poll, in contrast, made explicit the proposal to remove “Community.” It also phrased questions so as to make support for and opposition to the name change equally viable options. For example, the response “I oppose removing ‘Community’” appeared beside the response “I support removing ‘Community,’” thus minimizing the effect of leading questions on the poll’s results. The major disadvantage of the Circuit’s poll is that, not having access to District-wide email lists, we were only able to poll slightly fewer than 200 faculty, students, and other SCC community members.

    Two results

    According to the office of the vice chancellor, the District’s poll found that 58% of SCCD students and 53% of faculty are “supportive” of the name change, while only 15% of students and 29% of faculty are “not supportive.”

    By contrast, the Circuit’s survey, which specifically asked about SCCC, found that “opposition” (27%) to the name change slightly outweighed “support” (24%). A slim plurality (25%) of respondents said that the name change would be consistent with the college’s mission, while 23% said it wouldn’t and 18% thought it made no difference. Students made up a little more than half of our respondents, while faculty and staff each made a little less than a quarter of our sample.

    Like the District’s poll, the Circuit’s poll is far from perfect. Our sample is less than a third of the District poll’s. Unlike the District poll, our poll cannot distinguish between responses by student, faculty, and staff. And it is possible that, lacking the ability to email everyone in the District, our sample was not representative of the larger population.

    In light of both polls’ respective imperfections and of the stark disagreement between their findings, it is impossible at this time to make confident statements about the overall views of SCCD faculty, students, and community members on the proposal to remove “Community” from our colleges’ names.

An SCCC student protest against the name change is scheduled for Wednesday, March 5 at 12pm. A forum about the name change will be held on at SCCC on Wednesday, March 12.

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