Unclear directions and access leave some students uncounted

Census confusion

Being counted in the 2000 U.S. Census is proving troublesome for some GW students.

Some students expressed confusion about the process of acquiring and returning the mandatory forms, which are not mailed directly to students in residence halls. In the halls, numerous advertisements from the bureau exhort students to fill out the forms, but some residence halls reported that the forms never arrived.

The Census Bureau sent copies of the forms to various universities around the nation, including GW, said Debra Russell, a Census representative. These forms will be delivered to residence halls for student use. Upon filling them out, students must return them to the office where they will be mailed back to the Census Bureau by May 6. Russell said the system seemed to be the best way to count students.

We’re putting forth our best effort to get an accurate count on college campuses, Russell said.

College students are among the main targets of the Census Bureau’s effort to get a more accurate count, bureau officials said recently. Student responses will help determine the services provided to college towns.

According to Russell and a representative from GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s office, the University has no responsibility for making sure students complete the forms or even have access to them.

Bureau representatives held census information sessions at most GW residence halls where students received the Census short forms. Some students said they also received the long form, which is supposed to be distributed randomly to a fraction of citizens, but the system appeared disorganized to some students.

Freshman Steve Shuford missed his residence hall’s Census night and attended the one held at Madison Hall.

When I got to Madison, they were giving out forms, and the supervisor told people who were giving out forms to give the short forms to the girls and the long forms to the guys. I have no idea what they were doing prior to that, but I do know that that is what they were saying, Shuford said. At Crawford Hall, Bureau officials never appeared for the information session. The office still lacks the documents for students.

Halls have tried different approaches to encourage students who didn’t attend sessions complete the form. Some halls, such as Lafayette and the Hall on Virginia Avenue have either put the uncompleted forms in students’ mailboxes or posted a list outside the hall office of those students who have not completed the form and can obtain theirs from the office. Other halls bypassed the mailbox step completely and left it up to students to voluntarily retrieve the documents in the hall offices.

Although a list of names of students who have not filled out their forms is available to the Census Bureau through the school, students said they have not noticed a special effort to encourage them to fill out the forms.

I wasn’t able to make the Census night that they had in my dorm, said freshman Jill Cuyler, who is a Lafayette Hall resident. I got the form, which happened to be a long one, in my mailbox. I’m not going to make any excuses; I just didn’t get around to filling it out.

Cuyler said the form had a deadline for return, which was April 14th. But no one has approached her about it since it was left in her mailbox, she said.

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