Census

Dalhousie University’s Be Counted census campaign gets off to slow start

The university’s census has only received completed forms from a small number of students despite promotional campaign

Dalhousie University Campus, Halifax NS
Dalhousie University Campus, Halifax NS   Molly Woodgate

Dalhousie University’s Be Counted campaign to get students and staff to fill out the census is not resulting in many students actually doing it.

The campaign runs from Nov. 16 until Nov. 30 and promotes the Dalhousie Census, which is part of a 2014 initiative to make Dalhousie a more diverse campus.

The campaign ends in a few days, but students have the rest of the year to fill out the census. Jasmine Walsh, a university human resources worker, said as of Nov. 26 the census had only collected 20 per cent of the broader university population.  The population includes students and people who have part-time academic or honourary appointments.

Walsh said the census was created because more data was needed about who was in the university community.

“It occurred to us [that] we didn’t have the data we wanted about who was in our community in order to start developing programs and initiatives that are truly responsive to the populations that we serve,” said Walsh.

A Nov. 16 posting on the Dal News website says the census hopes 80 per cent of the university population completes it.

John Hutton, vice-president of academic and external at the Dalhousie Student Union, said it’s still early in the census launch, but whether students have heard of it is an important question.

Students don’t understand

Laura Lewis, a student at Dalhousie, said she doesn’t understand the motivation behind the census and she thinks the census would not show how diverse the university was.

“I got the email, but I don’t really know anything about it or what its goal is, or anything,” she said.

Jayden Gigliotti said he received the email as well, but did not understand what it was for.

“I just haven’t really seen it much and know much about it to answer [census questions],” he said.

Laura Chan a part-time worker at DalOUT, a university society that advocates on behalf of LGBT students, said students may think it takes more time to complete the census than it actually does.

“Everyone is really busy with studying and exams…and they are just not really taking the time out of their day and actually doing it,” Chan said.

Chan also said students tend to not to fill out these forms because they don’t think it will make any difference.

The census is important

Hutton said the census could help create scholarships for the students who need it.

Walsh said the census is trying to reach the general population at the university so programs can be created that suit the Dalhousie community. The census would also show if the student population matches who is employed at the university.

“[If] we have a student population that doesn’t match the service provide, we may want to look at doing some targeted recruitment,” she said. “We can make sure the people who our students are dealing with are people who reflect them.”

The census was always planned to be done this year, but its importance increased after the Dalhousie dentistry scandal, said Walsh.

“It brought into focus for more people the need for us to be targeted and to be responsive on issues of diversity and inclusion,” she said.