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Nearly Half of ASU Faculty Surveyed Report Negative Morale; 67 Percent Feel ‘Worse’ From Five Years Ago

By Paul T. Choate

March 7, 2013. A survey conducted by the Welfare and Morale Committee of the Faculty Senate at Appalachian State University in January and February has revealed low morale among the faculty in a recently released report. 

The survey was conducted from Jan. 29 to Feb. 12 and focused on three general areas identified as components of overall morale at the institution: resources for the missions of teaching and research, salary and benefits and institutional governance.

“The data collected indicates that there are morale issues at ASU. Significant numbers of faculty expressed their overall morale as ‘bad,'” the report stated. “What is equally disturbing are the high numbers of respondents that say their morale has gotten worse over the last 5 years. This is also reinforced by the large number of faculty that responded that are looking for positions at other institutions.”

MORALE2The survey was emailed out to 1,408 faculty members and, of those, 675 responded. Nearly half — 45 percent — of all respondents reported that their overall morale at ASU is negative, with a modal response of “somewhat bad.” Of respondents, full professors had the highest percentage of low morale at 55 percent. However, many associate and assistant professors also indicated low morale at 47 percent and 43 percent, respectively. 

moralePerhaps most troubling in the report is how faculty members who have been with the university for five years or more felt. According to the report, 67 percent of respondents indicated they felt either “worse” or “much worse” about their morale as compared to five years ago. 

Only 42 percent of the campus agreed that “the climate at ASU supports and promotes academic freedom.”

Also alarming to the university is that 30 percent of tenure-track faculty revealed they are currently seeking employment at other institutions. 

“Every institution would expect some movement by faculty, especially Assistant Professors, as they find the right mix of conditions to develop their careers. However, such a large number suggests widespread discontent with the institution on a broader level,” the report stated. “With 52 percent of the assistant professors in Arts and Sciences and 42 percent in the College of Education seeking other employment the ability of departments and programs to develop a stable curriculum is diminished. Such large numbers raise concerns about ASU’s future.”

Fifty-nine percent of respondents stated they did not find the resources available for supporting faculty research adequate and 60 percent of respondents expressed concern of financial support for faculty development not being adequate. 

The financial concerns expand far beyond just faculty development too. Over three-quarters — 76 percent — of tenure-line respondents stated they did not feel that the salary and benefits at ASU are sufficient to attract and retain high quality employees. 

salary“Over many years I have worked long and hard for essentially no financial reward beyond keeping my job. The University has escalated salaries and benefits for new hires so much more rapidly than it has for us old hands. Regardless of the fiscal realities of the system, none of us can continue to regard ourselves and our contributions to ASU as truly valuable if there is never any ‘reward’ for our work,” wrote one of the respondents in the open-ended questions portion of the survey. 

In terms of faculty sentiment of the administration, overall a majority of tenure-line respondents — 79 percent — stated that their dean was responsive to their concerns. However, such high regard was not held for the provost or the chancellor. Only 58 percent stated Chancellor Kenneth Peacock was responsive to concerns and only 45 percent stated Provost Lori Gonzalez was responsive to concerns. 

Concern was also raised over the administration’s respect of faculty governance with 62 percent of full professors saying they did not feel the provost respects faculty governance. Fourty-four percent stated they did not feel the chancellor respected faculty governance. 

“The present administration runs roughshod over faculty governance. The fact that the chancellor rules against the faculty in every single grievance proceeding tells you all you need to know,” wrote one respondent. 

“To put it simply, the issues that interfere with the realization of the measures of job satisfaction tend to show up in the survey as negative influences on morale. This survey has highlighted some of those negative influences on morale in the hope that recognition is the first step toward rehabilitation,” the report stated in its conclusion. “The institution clearly has some areas where it needs to improve.”

To view the full report, visit facsen.appstate.edu/sites/facsen.appstate.edu/files/faculty_morale_survey_report-2-1-1.pdf.