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Census, Students and Communication

18 Mar Posted by in Business | Comments Off on Census, Students and Communication

Most of us got the census forms this week. Being conventionally civic-minded and also aware of how useful census data can be in research, I’ve always enjoyed filling out the forms. (And yes, I’ve filled out several). Once I got a long form, which put me in hog heaven.

I recently learned — hadn’t thought about it before — that dorm-resident college students will also have received forms this week. There is a bit of concern about this, confirmed in discussions with a few actual students. First, contemporary students are not accustomed to take stuff seriously that arrives via snail mail. Second, some think their parents will report them (this is not the case, if they live in a college dorm). And some of course don’t understand the importance of the census (I know this sounds preachy) or are aware of claims about its accuracy on minority reporting (a possibly legitimate topic, but not one that should discourage response — quite the contrary). So I hope we can make students aware of what this is all about.

Which leads to the hardy perennial topic: how to contact students in the first place? As we administrative types have discussed communicating about the census, we also remind ourselves that students no longer read emails. Facebook and other methods are better, but there’s no assurance of uniform reach even here. Responsible students themselves hesitate in giving advice about how to contact their peers. Happily, for the census, dorm-based signs and simple word of mouth, though old-fashioned, may help. But the issue is intriguing, and of course goes well beyond the census to other occasions when we’d like to be surer than we are about getting some information out effectively.