COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND
DIMENSIONS OF USE, NEEDS AND PERCEPTIONS
AMONG STUDENT UNION PATRONS
Myron J. Veenstra and William E. Sedlacek
Research Report # 9-82
The computer time for this project has been supported in full through the facilities of the Computer Science Center of the University of Maryland, College Park.
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND
DIMENSIONS OE USE, NEEDS AND PERCEPTIONS AMONG STUDENT UNION PATRONS
Myron J. Veenstra arid William E. Sedlacek
Research Report # 9- $2
The purpose of this study was to assess how the dimensions perceived by Student Union users an one campus match Adair's list of student union goals. Results of principal components factor analyses provided confirmation that MSU users' perceptions, needs and behaviors do parallel more general student union goals. Results of this analysis also indicated that recreational planning either must be defined more broadly, or, alternatively, its under-utilization by females must be recognized.
Student Unions traditionally have been expected to serve such varied groups as students, faculty, administration, alumni and guests. Yet the variety of individual interests and behaviors of individuals within these groups is obscured when they are viewed as homogenous elements of the university community.
Recently, student unions have been studied for. the diversity of programs offered (Brattain, 1981); and their differential impact upon such groups as students, employees, etc. (Spelman, 1980) has been suggested as an important area for research. However, groups such as students, faculty, employees, etc, as a whole have not been studied to identify relationships among perceptions, needs and behaviors within these large populations.
These relationships possibly differ for various subgroups. Webster and Sedlacek (19€32) found that different racial/cultural groups and subpopulations have differing perceptions of the Maryland Student Union, as well as differences in how they rise this facility, Adair (1977) asked full.-time teaching and research faculty at 95 institutions to rank in preferred order the importance of 29 union goals. The top ten goals identified were:
1) Be aware and responsive to student needs.
2) Be a pleasant place where faculty and students can go to spend a leisure moment during the day.
3) Provide a place where daily needs (food, entertainment, and supplies) cost a little less than off-campus.
4) Facilitate activities for small groups for specialized interests.
5) Offer an atmosphere of good taste.
6) Enlighten the institution culturally through programming.
7) Provide shopping center conveniences such as books, clothing, food, supplies, and postal service.
8) Encourage students to diversify their interests through exposure to new experiences. Provide a well
rounded recreational program for the college community, Be a place where students can enjoy a hobby or recreational skills.
The purpose of the present study was to assess hour the dimensions perceived by student union users on one campus match Adair's list of student union goals.
A questionnaire concerning perceptions and use of the Maryland Student Union (HSU) developed by Webster and Sedlacek (1982) was mailed to a random sample of 706 members of the University of Maryland community stratified by campus status (undergraduates by race, graduate students, faculty, associate and classified staff). A 74% return rate of usable questionnaires was reached.
For this study, data were analyzed by principal components factor analysis, using squared multiple correlations as communality estimates, and all factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 rotated to a varimax solution.
Eight factors identifying underlying dimensions of use patterns, needs and perceptions of. the MSU were found accounting for 54% of the common variance-1.
Factor 1, labeled "General Attitude Toward the MSU," seemed to denote global evaluations of the HSU. Factor II, called "Resident Status and Purchasing Behaviors," identified the providing of convenience items as especially important to on-campus students. Factor III, "Purchasing of Reading Materials," seemed to identify a common interest in supplementing course textbooks with purchases of other reading materials from the bookstore. Factor IV identified the inter-relationship among use of such MSU areas as lounges, study rooms and rest rooms. Factor IV was called "Use of Low or Non-Revenue Producing Areas." Factor V: "Participation in Student Affairs Activities," found the relationship in involvement in organizational activities such as Campus Activities, Greek Affairs, Student organizations and orientation Office. Males' proportionally greater use of such activities as billiards, bowling and pinball was singled out in Factor VI, "Use of
1. Factor loadings and item intercorrelations available from William E.
Sedlacek, Counseling Center, University of Maryland, College Park, 20742.
Recreational Programs." Factor VII, "Personal Wants Sought," related to associated perceptions of the MSU as a place to walk around in, relax, and be with people. Factor VIII was called "Evaluation of MSU Program Efforts,°" and contained items assessing the Union's variety and innovativeness in its cultural and general programming.
The eight factors derived will be discussed in terms of their congruence with the top ten goals identified by Adair's results.
The five items of this factor accounted for. 19% of the common variance and seemed to touch upon Adair's first anal fifth goals: responsiveness to student needs, and offerings a desirable physical environment. Items in this factor included positive feelings for the MSU, having a pleasant experience, and perceiving the building as clean and attractive ass well as being adequate in filling the respondent's needs, Presented in this factor is the phenomenon of respondents relating their outlook on the HSU to their perceptions of the physical environment, while not relating perceptions to their degree of involvement with its programs and facilities.
Resident Status and Purchasing Behavior: Factor II
Subsumed within this factor is the association between living on campus and frequency of purchasing small items such as greeting cards, gifts, and jewelry at the bookstore, and use of such HSU facilities as the bank and post office. Clearly, residents of, campus housing are relatively less mobile than off-campus students; therefore, they make more frequent purchases. This factor is best described by Adair's seventh goal: providing shopping center conveniences. It accounted for 9% of the common variance.
There was a positive relationship in the reported frequency of respondents' purchases of reference and research books, supplementary reading material, textbooks, leisure books and magazines. The items contained in this factor expand upon Adair's seventh goal: Providing books, which suggests the importance of the Union's bookstore in enhancing the student's education. Seven percent of the common variance was accounted for by this factor.
Respondent's scoring high on this factor would make greater use of the Union's study rooms, lounges, rest rooms, coin lockers, pay phones and photocopying machines. It may be inferred that individuals scoring high on this factor also spend a good deal of their time in the Union. Six percent of the common variance was accounted for by Factor TV. This factor seems similar to Adair's third goal: providing a place that meets daily needs. In this case, it would be meeting respondents' needs for a place to study, relax, make phone calls, etc.
Respondents scoring high on this factor were active in organizations and boards serving the wider campus community. It is cost closely described by Adair's fourth goal: facilitating activities for small groups with specialized interests. This distinct grouping of activities accounted for 5% of the common variance.
Respondents who scored high on this factor were typically males who made frequent use of the billiard, pinball and bowling facilities at the MSU. Adair's tenth goal for unions, being a. place to enjoy recreational skills, is
most descriptive of this factor. Four percent of the common variance was accounted for.
The Union's role as "living room of the campus" is reflected in this factor. outlined in this factor are the interests of those with high scores in liking to be around people, relaxing in the Union, and going to the Union just to walk around, without any particular purpose in mind. As in Adair's second goal, this factor might be interpreted as reflecting the Union's importance as a pleasant place to spend leisure moments. Respondents scoring high on this factor were also snore likely to use the lounge areas. Four percent of the common variance was attributed to this factor.
Evaluation of MSU Program Efforts: Factor VI
High scores on this factor indicated a positive evaluation of MSU programming efforts. The variety of Union programming, its cultural relevance and imagination more likely would be seen in positive terms among those obtaining a high score on this factor. This factor would be most adequately described by Adair's sixth goal; enlightening the institution through cultural programming Four percent of the common variance was accounted for.
Results of the factor analysis provided confirmation that patterns of MSU users' perceptions, needs and behaviors do parallel abstract student union goals. Another way of looking at the factors offers insight into how goals are translated into actual perceptions, interests and behaviors.
For example, the first factor outlined a relationship between the users' general attitudes toward the MSU and its physical. environment. This factor seems to accentuate the physical environment's association with the
consumer's satisfaction. Factors outlining use of the lounge areas for relaxing and meeting people while making incidental purchases pointed out that, to some degree, the economic health of the MSU is tied to its social environment. The results of this analysis also indicated that recreational planning either crust be redefined more broadly, or, alternatively, its underutilization by females must be recognized.
Factor analysis demonstrated that consumer perceptions, needs and use patterns can be statistically summarized along lines suggested by traditional goal statements. The dimensions identified through such an analysis provided insight into the human element toward which abstract ,goals are directed.
Adair, C. Faculty attitudes toward the college union. Journal of College Student Personnel, 1977, 18,
Brattain, W. The administration of college union and campus activities. Bloomington, Ind.: T. I.S.
Green, P. and. Tell, D. Research for marketing decisions. Englewood Cliffs. N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1978 .
Spelman, W.H. III. The Bulletin of the Association of College Unions, International, Feb. 1980, Wol. MIN,
1., p. 2.
Webster, D.W. and Sedlacek, W.E. The differential impact of a university student union on campus subgroups.
NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel. Administrators) Journal, 1982,19, 2, 48-51.