Georgetown Health Education Services has no plans to fully release information regarding student health from the National College Health Assessment survey results from previous years.
The NCHA, a survey developed by the American College Health Association, is administered to colleges and universities across the United States to survey issues ranging from drug use to sexual health.
Several peer institutions, including Dartmouth College, Emory University, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California publish data for their respective campuses. While Georgetown does not make all the information publicly available, portions of the information are available in The Stall Seat Journal, available in many public restrooms on campus.
HES, which works to provide the university community with health information, withholds some of the results it receives from the NCHA on the grounds that releasing data could infringe on students’ right to privacy, according to Director of Health Education Services Carol Day.
“Some of the data that might easily become sensationalized is not something that we are looking to defend because frankly, it’s pointless. The story is more what we do with this data, not so much what the numbers are,” Day said.
Every two years, the NCHA provides the university with over 300 data points on a number of topics related to student health. According to NCHA Chief Research Officer Mary Hoban, the university has the liberty to publish or withhold any information it chooses.
“I have seen campuses with all different levels of access to student data,” Hoban said. “Some schools you’ll see no access, some will be limited, and others, the results will be posted on their website.”
It is more common for universities to not make the data entirely public, according to Hoban.
Certain information is not released to the student body because it could reveal personal details, according to Day.
“It comes under the institutional review board because we are dealing with survey data, very personal topics in some cases that we’re asking students,” Day said. “While it’s voluntary and anonymous, the students who take the survey are guaranteed that the survey results are somewhat limited in usage.”
Day said the withheld data could be misinterpreted out of context.
“Any and all of it is disclosed as we see is appropriate. We don’t mind sharing most of it with students, but we like to keep it in context,” Day said. “We don’t like to give out bits and pieces because it’s more meaningful in a context that we are talking about the implications of it.”
Co-Presidents of H*yas For Choice Emily Stephens (SFS ’17) and Brinna Ludwig (NHS ’17) did not respond to requests for comment.
Miranda Gabriel (COL ’20) said she was concerned about repercussions of the university’s decision to withhold student health data due to the assumed propensity of students to judge things they do not fully understand.
“Withholding data does not falsify it. If they don’t make it clear to us that certain issues exist among the population here at Georgetown, it does not make those realities disappear — it only leads to assumptions and speculation,” Gabriel said. “It degrades the HES’ reputation as a reliable and trustworthy source when they try to hide the truth.”
Correction: This article previously stated Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh did not respond to requests for comment; this is not correct.
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