Sedlacek, W. E., & Masters, M. D.  (1980).  Better utilization of campus resources through research.  Journal of College Student Personnel, 21, 374‑375.



Better Utilization of Campus Resources Through Research


William E. Sedlacek

Counseling Center


Michael D. Masters

Counseling Center

University of Maryland

College Park. Maryland


Often student opinion research is ignored or not done because it is viewed as irrelevant. At the University of Maryland, College Park, a plan for combining the efforts of a student affairs research office, an academic office, and the student press resulted in a better deployment of campus resources and increased awareness of student opinions on controversial campus issues. An undergraduate class in opinion polling was taught by members of the counseling center research office through the Department of Measurement and Statistics. In addition, arrangements were made with the student newspaper, the Diamondback, to publish a regular column on the results of the polls conducted by class members. Students, who enrolled for one to three credits, were taught the theory and operational aspects of polling and wrote summaries of their findings for purposes of class grades and submission to the student paper.


Topics to be studied largely came from the Diamondback staff from their determination of campus issues of high interest. Other suggestions came from the 12 students in the class or the instructors, Allowing all to participate in selecting the topics to be polled retained the interest of all and fostered a cooperative spirit.


Aside from assigned readings from a text (Backstrum & Hursch, 1963) and articles from the professional literature, class members shared their successes and failures in their data-gathering efforts. Typically, a poll would be completed within one week, by telephone, using six or fewer structured questions to a random sample of 200 undergraduate students selected by computer. Class members would combine their results and each would independently write a summary of the results. The summaries would be criticized by other class members and the instructors. and the best summary or a combined summary developed in class would be submitted to the Diamondback. The newspaper staff then usually would rewrite the findings for publication.


Formal evaluation of the course by class members and newspaper staff yielded the following results: (a) all class members believed they had learned a useful skill that would help them find a better job; (b) of the 12 class members, 11 reported that the class was fun, and 8 were interested in further courses or experience in research techniques: (c) all 6 members of the newspaper staff believed they had produced a better paper because of the polls: and (d) of the 6 newspaper staff, 4 believed that the chance to write research results for publication increased their journalistic skills.


Instructors observed that the cooperative arrangement between an academic unit, a student affairs unit, and an independent student-run unit resulted in a better understanding among all involved in the interdependence of the role played by each on campus. The spin-off effects of the experience have already been felt in several ways. First, the issues themselves generated much interest among readers as attested to by the fact that several of the topics studied generated letters to the editor. Topics studied included reverse discrimination, a tuition increase, Jewish holidays, confidentiality of academic records, national student issues. and opinions of the Diamondback. Second, the Student Government Association (SGA) used the poll results in deciding on their position on several controversial issues. As a follow-up to this interest, the SGA has formed a committee on opinion polling and is working with the writers who are consulting on the training and management necessary to doing systematic opinion polling.


Thus, we are suggesting that the concept of cooperation of student affairs with other campus units not be limited to such topics as career development (Touchton, Wetheimer, & Cornfeld, 1977), and residence hall consultation (Westbrook, Hunt. Johnson. Leonard. Boyd, & McDermott. 1978). In fact, programs involving data gathering may hold some of the best potential for intracampus cooperation. (Those wishing copies of the course syllabus, questionnaires. or newspaper articles are invited to write the junior author.





Backstrum. C. H., & Hursch, G. D. Survey research.


Evanston. Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1963.


Touchton, J. G.; Wertheimer, L. C.: & Cornfeid, J. L. Career planning and decision-making: A developmental approach to the classroom. Counseling Psychologist. 1977, R, 42-47.


Westbrook. F. D.: Hunt. S. M., Jr.: Johnson. F. P.: Leonard, M. M.: Boyd, Y. S.; & McDermott. M. T. University campus consultation through the formation of dyads. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 1978, 56, 359-363.


Journal of College Student Personnel, 1986, 21, # 4, 374-375.