EDITORIAL: Leverage Data, Power Policy
Editorials

Statistics about our campus community can be valuable tools in improving existing resources and policies and pointing out issues that have yet to be addressed. Last year’s first Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey sought to bring more concrete information regarding the prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct at Georgetown to light. Its results are now publicly available online and help administrators and student government develop policy.

In order to address an issue, it is imperative that one look at the facts to identify the magnitude and extent of an issue. Data that could potentially benefit our community, as well as make us aware of more extensive problems, should not be collected and then withheld from the wider student body. However, Georgetown’s National College Health Assessment results have remained unreleased to the community. Such data can be valuable in the hands of students and thus it is time for the university and Health Education Services to make Georgetown’s past survey results public, including our most recent data from 2014.

The National College Health Assessment is a survey developed by the American College Health Association, a group dedicated to providing resources to confront the various health challenges college students and health professionals face. The survey is conducted on campuses across the country and is designed to gather data on issues affecting students, from drug use and alcohol consumption to mental and sexual health.

The ACHA compiles data from all participating universities to construct annual reports on the state of college students’ health, but individual schools have access to their own reports and can choose to make the data available. Georgetown has been conducting the survey since 2002 and implements it every other year, with the most recent iteration in 2014. Yet for over a decade, the university has not made its data public to the student body.

Many of Georgetown’s peer institutions that participate in the survey already make the data widely available to their student bodies, including Dartmouth University, Emory University, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California. Furthermore, Georgetown already makes specific facts from the survey’s results known through publications like the Stall Seat Journal in many public restrooms. Yet the school still has not provided all the data to the wider student body, and thus important information regarding health on a college campus are out of the reach of those the data is meant to serve: the students.

Given the range of new initiatives this semester designed to address health concerns among students, it is also important for students to understand how Georgetown has performed over the past few years. For initiatives that seek to address a wide range of problems, such as the anonymous online chat service Project Lighthouse and the Campus Climate Volunteer Corps, which was created after last year’s climate survey, collecting survey data can help judge the effectiveness of these projects and more.

Ultimately, Georgetown’s failure to make the National College Health Assessment data public is an issue of transparency. Students should know the state of overall health at Georgetown and the empiricism that goes with it. If the university made data from 2014 and all subsequent years available from now on, it would show a commitment to transparency and a willingness to bring the student body into the conversation about health and wellness.

Whether it be mental health, sexual health or alcohol consumption, the National College Health Assessment is a valuable tool for colleges to obtain current and relevant data on a range of pertinent issues. Since Georgetown possesses this data, students should be made aware of the current state of health in their community as well as how they can collectively turn this information into future initiatives. It is time to put this data and information into the hands of students to make this campus a place where they can judge for themselves where are next steps are needed in addressing issues of health and wellness.

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