Administrator reacts to faculty survey
by Anna Oakes
Appalachian State University Provost Lori Gonzalez said she is dedicated to working with faculty to overcome challenges after a Faculty Senate survey published this week indicated faculty morale has worsened compared to five years ago.
"In a time when faculty haven't had raises for several years, have had increased pressures in multiple directions and have still been able to make a tremendous impact in the areas of service, scholarship and teaching, I hear the concerns of the faculty," Gonzalez said.
"They have been asked to do more with less, and I respect their dedication to our students and to their scholarship," she added. "It is important to note that I am dedicated to working together to find solutions to the challenges ahead of us and to ensure the strength of our core mission."
Faculty Senate leaders directed the Faculty Senate Welfare and Morale Committee to conduct the survey, which, according to the committee's report, found that 45 percent of respondents say their overall morale is negative, while nearly the same portion report it as positive. Sixty-seven percent of faculty who have worked at ASU for more than five years stated they felt worse or much worse about their morale compared to five years ago.
Faculty at ASU have expressed concerns about due process and academic freedom rights since sociology professor Jammie Price was placed on involuntary administrative leave in March 2012. Four students said Price made disparaging remarks about student athletes, repeatedly criticized ASU administration, discussed personal material not on the syllabus and showed a pornography-related documentary without warning about the film's potentially objectionable content, and Gonzalez concluded Price created a "hostile learning environment."
The use of an anonymous whistle-blowing hotline called EthicsPoint was another source of alarm for faculty members late last fall. Gonzalez later announced ASU would delay implementation of EthicsPoint in response to concerns.
These events were part of the rationale for conducting the survey, said Faculty Senate Chairman Andy Koch, but it was "also to assess the general state of morale on campus and to get a sense of the issues that negatively impact morale on campus."
No past surveys were used as a model for the morale survey, Koch said. The survey was sent to 1,408 full- and part-time faculty at ASU, and 675 faculty members responded.
When asked if any other bodies at ASU had conducted faculty morale surveys in the past, Gonzalez pointed to a 2011-12 Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey created by Harvard University's Collaboration on Academic Careers in Higher Education.
In that survey, which had 368 respondents, academic freedom at ASU received high marks from faculty. On a scale of 1 to 5, with five being the best, discretion over course content scored a 4.46 and was noted as an area of strength compared with surveys conducted in 2008 and 2005.
Overall, only 1 percent of respondents in the 2011-12 survey listed academic freedom as one of the two worst aspects of working at ASU, while 11 percent listed academic freedom as one of the two best aspects of working at ASU.
Faculty's top-rated aspects of working at ASU were geographic location, a sense of "fit" here, quality of colleagues and support of colleagues. Faculty's four worst aspects were compensation, lack of support for research/creative work, cost of living and too much service/too many assignments.
Almost half of respondents -- 164 -- reported in the 2011-12 survey that the institution's priorities have changed in ways that negatively affect their work.