2011-2012 Faculty Survey

THE 2011 BCAAUP FACULTY SURVEY

 

During the fall 2011 semester, the Boston College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors performed its second survey of all faculty to ascertain opinion concerning the faculty’s role in university affairs.  As in the 2010 survey, the quantitative (closed-ended) questions were divided into six sections, including Governance and Administration, the Faculty Handbook, Physical Environment, Community, and Professional Responsibilities and Compensation. We also invited faculty to “comment on any specific concerns or elaborate on any responses” to the strongly agree/disagree questions.  Finally, we asked respondents to identify the issues on which the BC Chapter of AAUP should be focusing attention.

 

The survey summary is divided into three parts:  1) representativeness of the survey; 2) findings;   and 3) implications going forward.

 

Representativeness

 

As of 2010-2011 there were approximately 923 full-time and part-time faculty at Boston College; of this total, 81% were full-time and 19% part-time.[1]  The overall response rate for this survey was 31% (N=285), a robust figure for surveys of this type.  Part-time faculty were not at all over-represented among the respondents; they comprised 19% of those answering the survey.  Assistant Professors were under-represented.  They comprise about 9% of the total of respondents for this survey.

 

Faculty answering this survey work in the College of Arts and Sciences (67%) as well as in all professional schools (33%).  Nursing was somewhat over-represented, comprising 30% of professional school respondents.

 

Again this year we looked carefully at the possibility of a “self-selection bias” in the survey results.   That is, do we have any reason to believe that the respondents differ in any significant way from those who did not respond?  The answer patterns summarized in the findings from the quantitative questions indicate that response bias was negligible.  The survey did not appeal only to those faculty with complaints. Respondents provided an informed, balanced, and nuanced view of the faculty’s role in university affairs. However, it is clear from the patterning of responses that there is a somewhat different mix this year, as compared to last year.   Many respondents took this survey who did not participate last year.  In general, faculty sentiment is consistent from the 2010 survey to the present.

 

It is more difficult to assess the open-ended responses because not all respondents gave them. Given the terms of the question, it is not surprising that “concerns” make up the bulk of responses.  Some comments suggest that an individual faculty member is quite satisfied with his/her situation:

 

BC is a great place to work and I am very happy here.

Administration is excellent from my perspective and is genuinely                                concerned with the welfare of the students.

 

I AM pleased with the opportunities we have had to hire highly                                               qualified young faculty

 

Believe it or not, I have no complaints about how Boston College is                               run.  But perhaps that is because I moved from an under-funded state                                 school to a well-funded private school.

 

I will say that I feel my compensation and benefits are extremely fair                                     and even generous.

 

However, the bulk of the qualitative comments offer criticism, most of it constructive, some of it impassioned.

 

Findings

 

Decision-Making at BC 

 

We asked a series of closed-ended questions concerning faculty satisfaction with participation in decision-making.  Again this year there was a clear pattern in the responses.  Faculty are most satisfied with decision-making in their departments.  Only 39% of those responding indicated dissatisfaction with their decision-making role at the department level.  At the school level, 53% expressed dissatisfaction with their role in decision-making. At the university-wide level 63% of those responding expressed dissatisfaction. The great majority of comments advocate for more of a faculty role in decision-making, and in general, a less centralized, more democratic decision-making process.  Several faculty noted that faculty participation on university committees is more for appearance sake than providing authentic influence over policy decisions.  Specific issues mentioned include:

 

  • funding for international travel
  • the faculty voice in determining promotions and tenure
  • the new proposed regulations concerning conflict of interest
  • class size
  • the recruitment of a diverse faculty
  • problems with the undergraduate advisement system
  • reductions in secretarial and administrative staff in academic departments.

 

 

 

Leadership in the University, Schools and Departments  

 

We also asked about faculty satisfaction with the leadership of academic administrators at the university, school and department levelsAt the university level, 55% of respondents were dissatisfied with leadership and administration.  At the school level, about 51% expressed some dissatisfaction.  At the department level, only 24% of those responding said that they were dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.  Specific leadership issues mentioned by faculty included:

 

  • accountability of senior administration officials
  • problems of bullying and intimidation
  • the difficulty of  getting a hearing for new ideas.

 

 

Faculty Handbook

 

We next asked a series of questions concerning the Faculty Handbook.   A minority of faculty responding (44%) indicated that they were familiar or very familiar with the University By-Laws and Statutes.   Sixty-one percent of respondents said that they were aware that the faculty rights and duties listed in the on-line Faculty Handbook have legal status.   Faculty did overwhelmingly agree (85% of respondents) that an elected faculty committee “should explain, evaluate, and publicize” all proposed changes to the Faculty Handbook prior to posting.

 

 

Physical Environment

 

On the topic of physical environment and classroom facilities, most faculty responding consider this attribute of the BC environment to be a strength.   About 57% agreed or strongly agreed that  “classroom facilities are well suited” to their teaching style and strategies.  However, there were some specific suggestions for improvement:

 

  • more classrooms for small seminars
  • fewer crowded classrooms
  • providing for simultaneous use of blackboard and projector displays
  • adapting more classrooms for the latest available technology
  • improving food service availability for faculty and staff
  • the need for a faculty common room on Middle Campus.

 

 

Collaboration 

 

We next inquired about collaboration across disciplines within the university.  Faculty were almost equally divided (42% vs. 41%) as to whether there are  “sufficient opportunities to interact and collaborate with colleagues across disciplines.”  However, there is stronger sentiment on the issue of the university’s role in facilitating and encouraging collaboration.   Seventy-three percent of faculty thinks the university does not do enough to encourage collaboration.

 

 

Morale

 

We next asked about the trajectory of faculty morale. Fifty-seven percent of respondents believe that morale has declined in recent years.   Only 16% think that morale has been improving.  Evidence cited by faculty included:

 

  • problems in attracting qualified faculty
  • marginalization of some faculty
  • increasing “corporatization” of the university.

 

 

Compensation

 

Finally, faculty was asked to respond to several items concerning the work they do and compensation.  There is significant discontent in this area.  In fact, more qualitative comments were submitted in response to these questions than to any other portion of the survey.  Less than half (44%) reported that they were satisfied with the compensation they were receiving.  About the same percentage (41%) said they were satisfied with the way their own performance was measured.  Moreover, 53% of respondents do not believe that they are being fairly compensated for their additional administrative and advising responsibilities.  However, 53% of faculty responding do agree that they have the resources (instructional, research-related, etc.) to fulfill their professional responsibilities.

 

Most faculty are satisfied with course scheduling in their departments. Sixty-nine percent report that they have input concerning teaching times and schedules.  However, 59% say that are not satisfied with the course load policy in their school or department.  Respondents are equally divided on the issue of faculty input in determining the course load policy in schools and departments.

 

Specific issues mentioned included:

 

  • inadequate salaries, especially for adjuncts and part-time professors
  • heavy teaching loads
  • disparities in salary, teaching loads, and expectations for university service – even within the same department
  • far more emphasis on research than on teaching in determining annual increments
  • gradual diminution of benefits  and increases in fees
  • few opportunities for career advancement for part-time professors
  • requiring the performance of uncompensated work.

Implications Going Forward

 

The results of the BCAAUP survey performed last year established a baseline from which to gauge changes in faculty opinion in response to initiatives from both the BC administration and the faculty going forward. Because the concerns and priorities of faculty as uncovered in this year’s survey show clear consistency with last year, these results suggest some areas for examination and action on the part of BCAAUP and the university as a whole:

 

 

  1. Faculty Handbook

 

The most significant finding concerning the Faculty Handbook was a consensus that an elected faculty committee should explain, evaluate, and publicize all proposed changes to the Faculty Handbook prior to posting. Faculty leadership should collaborate with the administration to plan this initiative. As the survey comments emphasize, BCAAUP should advocate that 1) the Faculty Handbook should primarily be written by the faculty–not largely by the Provost’s office, and 2) that there be a majority faculty presence on a committee that reviews/maintains/updates the Faculty Handbook.    

 

 

2.  Collaboration

 

A significant portion of the faculty (73%) clearly believes that the administration is not doing enough to foster collaboration across disciplinary lines. This opinion reflects the dynamic and changing nature of scholarship and the need for cross-disciplinary approaches that inform public policy and enrich academic discourse in the 21st century. BCAAUP should encourage collaboration between departments and schools to break down the academic silos that are rapidly disintegrating in organizations outside of academe.  As one colleague noted:

 

I am very admiringly pleased with the program  . . . that I teach                                                in but disapprove of the autocratic way the school is run.                                                 Without a functioning faculty senate there is no way for the                                         intelligence and training of the faculty to be properly deployed                                      or for there to be fruitful collegial relationships across the                                       various segments of the university.

 

 

3.  Compensation

 

The fact that less than half of respondents reported that they were satisfied with the compensation they were receiving, and that 53% do not believe that they are being fairly compensated for their additional administrative and advising responsibilities is cause for concern. BCAAUP should advocate for a revitalized Faculty Compensation Committee.  As the qualitative comments suggest, there should be:

 

  • transparency in faculty salaries and annual raises
  • a much stronger role for the Faculty Compensation Committee, including access to budget and other financial data.
  • more (information) about how BC receives and spends money.

 

 

4.  Morale

 

This year we added a survey question about the trajectory of morale among faculty.  The pattern of responses calls for our urgent attention. Fifty-seven percent of respondents believe that morale has declined in recent years.   Only 16% think that morale has been improving.  It is likely that productivity, retention of talented faculty, and ultimately BC’s reputation could be negatively impacted by morale issues.  How can faculty and administration focus on these concerns?  BCAAUP should participate in a more extensive assessment of faculty morale and ways of improving it.  As one comment stated:

 

The faculty should not live in an environment of disrespect and                             bullying, especially given the ethos and espoused values of a                                       Jesuit school, which asks for respect for the whole individual.

 

 

5.  Part-time and Contingent Faculty

 

Qualitative comments from the survey clearly indicate that responding part-time faculty feel marginalized and frustrated.  They often find it difficult to figure out how to advance and plan their careers.  BCAAUP should advocate for positive changes in the status and prospects of contingent faculty:

 

The university needs to more realistically assess its                                                 dependence on ‘part-time’ faculty to carry . . . the teaching                               burden and grant full-time status to those ‘part-time’ faculty                                  members who have successfully demonstrated their teaching                           and research contributions to the university.

 

Full-time contingent faculty (should be incorporated) in                               departmental and institutional structures to include                                        sabbaticals, voting, review and promotion procedures as well                                as appeals.

 

  1.  Facilities

 

Although a clear majority of faculty agreed that “classroom facilities are well suited” to their teaching style and strategies, a significant minority (about 28%) did not agree.  A case can be made that this figure is too high.  BCAAUP should advocate appropriate classroom environments in order to maximize learning and to provide educational value to students.  New building construction and planning of renovations are now underway.  Satisfying the classroom needs of all faculty is a worthy goal and target for future planning.

 

  1. Decision-Making

 

While faculty are generally satisfied with their role in decision-making at the department level, a sizable majority expressed concern over their role in school and university-level governance.  What steps can be taken to ensure that faculty who serve on existing school and university committees are perceived as being representative of faculty sentiment? How can leaders at all levels develop patterns of consistent transparency and accountability?   BCAAUP should advocate for the creation of additional opportunities for faculty input in decision-making. Here is a sampling of faculty opinion:

 

There is a lack of real faculty participation in the governance of                                   BC.  Without an elected and independent faculty body, new                                                ideas that would improve BC are less likely to come forward.

A faculty senate or similar organization is needed so that faculty have     a greater role in guiding the university mission.

 

 

Faculty (should) have a real voice in major decisions– not just token        representation on committees such as dean search committees that            are appointed by the dean or provost.  That university committees             have real power not just an advisory role.  That faculty be respected          as the backbone of this university.

 

Improve faculty input and governance so that faculty have a            recognized & independent voice on campus

 

The faculty need to have more input on the major decisions at                                                 BC.

We need a faculty union at Boston College.

 

There should be a faculty senate with a real role in governance.

 

Faculty should have a voice in setting academic directions for                                       the university . . . I support a governance structure of the                                       whole–full faculty meeting of all tenured and tenure-track                                           faculty make                  decisions, not a Senate or representative body.

 

Faculty should have a more direct role in governance — not “advisory”      committees, but decision-making committees.

 

(We should) institute a representative faculty senate with decision-        making rather than purely advisory powers subordinate to   administrative decision-making and veto power.

 

Real faculty governance.  Period.

 

 

Respectfully submitted:  Professors Paul S. Gray and Hiroshi Nakazato.

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Source:  BC Factbook, 2010-2011

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