Tobacco Survey Meets Tech Delays

Written by

Hey, remember that proposed smoking ban? The survey for that ban was originally supposed to be e-mailed to a random sampling of students on Nov. 4, but as you probably have realized by now, nobody’s received it yet.

Turns out, it’s a communication thing. CCSC VP for Policy Sarah Weiss tells Bwog the council can’t e-mail the survey until it’s randomly selected names, but the council can’t select names until it receives lists of UNIs from CUIT. But, in a rare triple axel of buck-passing, CUIT can’t send those lists until other CUIT people compile them!

Weiss confirms that once CCSC gets the lists, the survey will go out to students shortly afterward. CUIT—the same group of techno-wizards who brought you that glitch-free ROTC survey and those broken laser printers in your dorm downstairs—just has to wrap up its end of things first.


Tags: , , , ,


  1. Capitalism Sucks  

    Maybe if they spent less time banning people who download stuff from the internet, they would do what they should really be doing here.

  2. Honesty  

    If the University unilaterally implements a smoking ban tomorrow, will we really give a shit? Sure, there'd be anger and OMG FASCISM, but that would die down in a day or two. It's not like anyone would go on a hunger strike or take over a building.

  3. Thom Yorke  

    Everything is...broken.

  4. question

    Why don't they simply email the survey to everyone?

    • cuz  

      of surveying bias. A good portion of students wouldn't respond to an untargeted survey because they're apathetic and "hip." In order to accurately represent these "hip"-sters, if you will, effort is focused on a smaller survey with more complete turnout so it's actually representative.

      Read: because everyone's bending over backwards to best serve an ungrateful, silent smoking minority.

  5. actually  

    The survey is being conducted in such a way so that the response can be extrapolated to the entire student body. If people don't respond to the survey, the survey is going to be sent back out to more students until they get a sizable amount of response. (I went to the CCSC Townhall)

    • What's the criteria  

      From my understanding, CCSC will be conducting the random picking of the names for their school. Likewise with the other councils. So, methinks there's not going to be an *actual* scientific method here - just a guy with a statistics textbook and a list of every UNI on campus.
      Just pass the damn smoking ban already, you administrative wusses.

  6. Greg Callus

    Hey all,

    I need to introduce myself - I'm the student at the Columbia Journalism School who recently joined the Tobacco Policy Working Group (self-invited). I'm the person behind the poll.

    I was less than happy with the way the previous consultation had gone (small surveys, self-selecting students etc), and as someone who has been on student governments in the past, I wanted to bring a little more rigour to the way in which student opinion is represented generally - not just for smoking, but for issues that will be even more important in the coming year, like financial aid.

    Thus I offered to help the Working Group (chaired by Health Services) conduct an opinion poll.

    I have been honest with the Working Group from the start - I am generally ideologically opposed to a complete smoking ban, which is why we've built in mechanisms so that each step of my working is plotted out in advance, and will be overseen by someone who is very much in favour of the ban to show I'm not fixing it. In truth, I do care about the proposed smoking ban, but nowhere near as much as I care about the integrity of polling.

    To the most recent comment - "just a guy with a statistics textbook and a list of UNIs" - you're almost there, except I don't have a statistics textbook OR a list of UNIs.

    I'm Deputy Editor for one of the larger political blogs in the UK (, focussing on opinion polls and betting markets, and where the pollsters come to defend their methodology against our commenters. I have run a political campaign in which I was commissioning polls from a major pollster, and my blog has just started commissioning our own national polls as well. I've recently written a book with the CEO of another of the polling companies looking at the next British General Election. I can't claim to be Mr Gallup, but I have as much familiarity with this sort of stuff as the most interested amateur.

    The poll will be of a randomised sample of the student body, with questions and methodology signed off in advance. Like any poll, it will not have a 100% response rate, and the responses profile will be non-representative, so it will then be ex post facto re-weighted by school, gender and smoking status to match the population at Columbia. Once conducted and reported back to the Working Group and the VP, the full results, methodology and data tables will be made available to all (prob online), including the weightings applied. All of this is standard methodology for political opinion polls. The response rate and the weighted sample size will dictate the margin of error, but even 500 responses would give a reasonable MoE.

    The delay (the poll was due to be sent out on the 4th) was due to a delay in getting a randomised sample of UNIs from CUIT. I am not in charge of this process, as data privacy laws apparently mean that I cannot be given all the UNIs. Similarly, because the poll is being conducted using subscription to a polling site (subs paid by Health Services), they have to manage the distribution process according to the methodology I've written. I take over once the poll closes to reweight and write up the analysis.

    There's nothing different in what we're doing with this poll than what is done for political polls all over the democratic world. Everything will be made transparent as soon as I've reported back in a week or so.

    If you have any questions, email me (gfc2111) and I'll get back to you as soon as I can (allow that quite a few people care about this, and suspect black magic or duplicity, so give me a chance). If you'd care to meet me to discuss it, I'm happy to do that too.

    Hope this has cleared up some of the questions.



© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.