By Vy Nguyen
“I don’t feel anonymous enough in the survey,” said a student. “Not going to lie to you, I definitely did not tell the truth in some questions.” This is a common response among the students, especially students of minority, that I talked to after OES upper schoolers took an 80-question survey a few weeks ago.
With 80 questions ranging from personal relationship to mental health, the survey took at least 30 minutes to complete. The purpose of the questionnaire was to identify patterns among US students to gather a fuller understanding of the community and develop future programs serving students’ wellness.
While the survey asked for truthful answers, an significant amount of students struggled to fulfill the requirement. The predominant reason was that they did not feel safe enough to share personal information, even in a survey that did not record responders. “My identity is really unique in the community, based off all the information gathered about my race and gender and whether I am a boarding or day student, it is very easy to know that I am the person that completed this survey,” said a student. This sentiment was echoed in different students who are also of minority identity.
However, what was not common knowledge was how the data collected would be handled. Authentic Connections, a private company that has partnered up with National Association of Independent School (NAIS), was chosen to create questions in the survey and also sort the data. This way, the students’ response would be analyzed independent of any school faculty, and instead of Authentic Connections staff. It would take 6 weeks before the upper school’s administration received the final result, which will have already been organized into categories and statistical charts.
It would have been really helpful if students were informed beforehand how their answers would be examined. Nevertheless, the fact that the fear of being exposed in anonymous survey is present in the community raises a serious question for our school as a community of unique individuals, is OES truly as diverse as we act to be? Compared to general Portland statistics, our school is relatively extremely inclusive and very committed to our mission of diversity, but is it a safe place for students of minority?