How Not to Use the Guide

Overview

Although we have gathered the data presented here because we are convinced of its value for LGBTQ students or straight allies picking a living group, we do not recommend using this information as the sole guide for that decision. These survey results show only a static snapshot of MITís various living groups during Spring 2012; communities change every year. Moreover, there are many facets to a living groupís culture besides its LGBTQ-friendliness; in general, talking to current residents is the best way to understand that culture. The Living Pink survey was conducted because it can be difficult to ask residents about LGBTQ topics, but as with all such data, the Living Pink Guide should be interpreted with caution.

Response Bias

Because the survey was not mandatory, it is possible that the majority of those who responded did so because they have a strong (often positive) opinion on these issues. In addition, LGBTQ students may have answered at rates higher than non-LGBTQ students. In order to minimize this bias, we used multiple avenues to encourage participation, such as enlisting the aid of living group councils and administrators unconnected to MITís LGBTQ community. However, responses may not reflect the opinions of the living group as a whole; numerical results should be interpreted in the context of the response rates and comments for the living group.

Social Desirability Bias

There may also be a social desirability bias, where respondents answer in a way that they think society deems appropriate, whether or not they personally agree with that answer. For example, if respondents believe that it is politically correct for them to be comfortable with an openly LGBTQ roommate, rooming results could be biased in a positive direction; similar biases may have played a role in responses about language, as many respondents appeared to feel that society deems the use of phrases such as ďthatís so gayĒ acceptable as long as they are not used in an intentionally derogatory manner.

Measuring Outness in Large Living Groups

Some difficulties encountered may be related to the complexity of sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, it can be difficult to know how ďoutĒ someone is as LGBTQ. Students may be completely out to a group of friends, but not to everyone in the community. Particularly in larger dorms, students may not even know each other due to physical distance within the building, class year, or other factors. In indicating whether or not they knew a student in their living group who is out as LGBTQ, respondents may have used criteria of the individual being out to close friends in the living group, to the university at large, or to their family.

Anonymity

The anonymous nature of the survey meant that there was a possibility of responses from students about dorms with which they are not associated or even deliberate sabotage. For the most part, however, this did not appear to be an issue; the data collected seemed reasonable and the overwhelming majority of respondents seemed to take the survey seriously. It is possible that alumni/alumnae on living groupsí mailing lists responded, even though we indicated that the survey was for current undergraduate students. We suspect, however, that when/if this occurred, it was rare and done only by recent alums with strong opinions on the subject. Thus, alum responses should provide useful information, even if they slightly distort the response rate.

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