The Hopkins Student Organization for Programming (HOP), a student-run social programming group that contributed to Spring Fair planning this year, released an online matchmaking survey on Monday, April 19 via an Instagram post.
The survey was originally going to be part of the hybrid in-person Spring Fair that started on Friday, April 23. According to HOP Executive Chair Amal Hayat, the University paid $75 to Fortress Software Inc. to facilitate the survey.
One question asked students to indicate their gender identity based on their “anatomical parts” and whether they preferred to be matched with someone with the same or opposite anatomical parts.
Sophomore Tomisin Longe, one of the first students to directly contact the HOP about the survey, noted the harm of such questions.
“An obvious issue is the fact that it’s very reductive to reduce people to their ‘anatomical parts,’” they said. “It’s also a very intrusive question to be asking, regardless of trans or cis [identity]. Trans and cis people don’t owe you the knowledge of what their genitalia may be.”
Another question on the form was “What is the best way to get someone to do something?” One of the response options was “It’s a good thing I am a Chemistry major.”
Longe believes that the response was alluding to drugging romantic partners and date rape.
The HOP removed the survey from its social media accounts and issued a statement the following afternoon.
“We recently released a survey for a friendship matchmaking event that we had planned,” the the HOP wrote. “We would like to sincerely apologize for any offensive content in the survey.”
The statement indicated that the survey content was not drafted by members of the HOP but by the third-party vendor contracted to help facilitate the event. HOP members did not thoroughly review the survey content prior to publishing it.
According to sophomore Shajae Pinnock, the initial statement was vague.
“If I hadn’t seen the initial survey and then saw the apology, I would’ve been confused about what they’re apologizing about because it wasn’t made clear in the apology letter,” she said. “It’s disappointing and unacceptable for a group to put out a survey that nobody within the group’s organization actually reviewed.”
The HOP released a second statement on Tuesday evening to apologize for the “flawed” initial statement and directly address the references of drugging and misrepresentation of gender and sexual identity. The group also noted that it originally intended to order a “friendship” survey but mistakenly received the “relationship” one.
Brad Vokey, a co-director of Fortress Software Inc., however, confirmed that the HOP ordered the dating survey in an interview with The News-Letter.
“I do not see anywhere on their electronic file that they requested any special ‘friendship’ match,” he said. “Most universities make up their own questionnaire, as our ready-to-go university questionnaire is very dated.”
In an email to The News-Letter, Hayat explained why the organization chose to use the third-party vendor.
“We decided to outsource this aspect to the company as we believed they would have the expertise in creating questions for clients including universities like ours,” she wrote. “We were operating in good faith.”
Hayat further confirmed that the wrong survey was ordered due to internal mistakes and elaborated on why she did not review the form before releasing it.
“Come day of the event, we rushed to release the survey to get it out before the end of the year, so nobody checked the survey before release,” she wrote. “We acknowledge that as an organization for students by students, we should have been more diligent during the planning process.”
The HOP was made aware of the troublesome questions on the survey by 11 p.m. on Monday, according to Hayat, and immediately removed the link to it on social media. Fortress Software Inc., which has control over the survey itself, eventually took it down on Wednesday.
Longe stressed that student groups must be more mindful of not only what they publish but also where their money is going.
“This was a purchased survey,” they said. “Even if it’s a gag, the HOP does have some say or belief in the things that were published in the survey.”
Hayat emphasized that the organization apologizes for the incident.
“We regret that it got as far as it did before we realized what the content of the survey included, and how harmful it is,” she wrote. “We are taking this as a learning moment and will be more proactive and attentive to vetting content in the future.”