Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? ‘At UKrant’, an irregular column, we take a look behind the scenes.
Last week, UKrant published a survey that we’d set up in conjunction with eighteen other research university and university of applied sciences newspapers. It was the first large-scale study about how people experience diversity and inclusivity in higher education, focusing on the question: should we do more or have we gone too far?
Or it would have been, if things hadn’t taken a turn.
The website GeenStijl got a hold of the survey, and treated it as they do most things, with a decided lack of reverence. The editors talked about ‘diversity being shoved down people’s throats’, about ‘white students who obediently sit in the back in class’, about ‘gender-dysphoric green-haired women with a five o’clock shadow’, followed by a call to fill out the ‘non-binary decision tree’ (the survey).
Man, they must’ve had so much fun, those GeenStijl editors.
We’re not running away from ‘an undesired outcome’, because there is no such thing
Because of all this, we decided to shut down the survey on Wednesday morning (no doubt to more of the editors’ delight).
It wasn’t because ‘the results weren’t to our satisfaction’, according to one critic on Twitter, or because we’re ‘self-selecting our participants’, according to another. We’re not running away from ‘an undesired outcome’, because there is no such thing.
We’re also not, as another Twitter user assumed, ‘manually matching the surveys to our conclusion’, because we haven’t drawn any conclusions yet. That’s why the original article asked if universities had gone too far or if they hadn’t done enough.
We’re now shutting down the survey because it’s been filled out by hundreds of people from all over the country who don’t have anything to do with higher education but do have strong opinions on diversity. One response to the GeenStijl article spoke volumes: ‘Fucked up the poll this afternoon. Filled it out all the way and told them to fuck off with that inclusivity bullshit.’
Is the entire project doomed? Fortunately, it is not. Part of the data can be used and the project will continue, albeit slightly differently than initially devised. We’ll let you know more about this in December.
Fucked up the poll this afternoon. Filled it out all the way and told them to fuck off with that inclusivity bullshit
Some people criticised the way the study had been set up. UG statistician and UKrant columnist Casper Albers says that GeenStijl didn’t hijack the study, as I wrote earlier, but that this situation shows that a public online questionnaire doesn’t constitute a study.
You can, he says, look at the distribution of participants across faculties, or where participants are originally from, but there are too many unknown (important) variables.
Albers: ‘Perhaps “woke” students are more likely to fill out the survey, or conversely, “anti-woke” ones. Usually, in studies like these, it’s the people who have more extreme opinions who are more inclined to participate than people who are more neutral.’
To find that out, though, you’d need to do a non-response study, in which you ask people why they didn’t fill out the survey. ‘Almost no one does that for studies like these, when it’s absolutely essential if you want to guarantee their reliability’, says Albers.
He also suggests only allowing answers submitted by participants with an email account at the educational institute and including two-step verification. That would prevent the data from being contaminated.
These are valuable remarks and suggestions, and we’ll discuss them with our fellow newspapers in the rest of the country.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant