As one of your regular readers, I have followed the AUSU goings on with keen but detached interest.
However, the AUSU forensic audit “survey” that appeared in the July 10 edition of THE VOICE compels me to comment.
Based on long experience in social research, it seems clear that AUSU failed to obtain professional expertise to guide them in that endeavour. Two major flaws stand out – among others.
First, use of an on-line tool lacks the sampling rigour needed to determine to what extent the responses obtained are the views of the AU undergraduate student population that Council was elected to represent. There is no way of knowing whether responses may be skewed by Council having recruited as many supporters as possible to complete the survey and provide responses favourable to what it wanted the survey to “show”.
The second major flaw is how the issue is framed. To validly elicit respondents? views, the explanatory comments to describe an issue on which respondent’s opinion is being sought must be as neutral as possible. The introductory comments by the AUSU in this “survey” are by no stretch of the imagination neutral. The wording used presented the issue in a way that will bias the responses.
Designing valid surveys demands considerable professional expertise. Use of a do-it-yourself survey tool to determine the views of the students that AUSU are mandated to represent is like using an on line how-to guide and a kitchen knife to perform exploratory diagnostic surgery.
In fairness, it is all too common for many to rely on resources readily available on line without ascertaining the quality or suitability of the material. That said, judgement in discerning what is sound and what is superficial fluff is one of the skills a university education is supposed to equip students with.
The bottom line is that any decisions made or justified on the basis of the results of the AUSU poll cannot be validly portrayed as reflecting the wishes of the AU undergraduate student body.
– A case of vote early, vote often? –Ed.