Faculty ‘climate survey’ — the results are in
Findings shed light on faculty experience, and suggest need to better include women, minorities, those in middle ranks
| 08 October 2004
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows — but sometimes it really helps to take the temperature. That’s the rationale (loosely speaking) behind a study of Berkeley faculty conducted by the campus Faculty Equity Office. The “climate” survey polled tenured and tenure-track faculty about their experience at Berkeley — what they value, how much they feel in sync with others in their unit, what their greatest sources of both satisfaction and frustration are. The response rate was 60 percent.
“We pay a lot of attention to recruiting new faculty, but much less attention to what happens to those people once they’re here,” says Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Equity Angelica Stacy, whose office works with Vice Provost for Faculty Welfare Jan de Vries on recruitment, development, and retention of faculty. Recruitment and retention hang on “how people feel once you bring them in the doorway,” Stacy says. “If they’re not having a good experience, we’re not going to be able to keep them.”
The long, web-based survey conducted last year — some of whose most interesting findings are captured by graphs on this page — showed that faculty by a wide margin tend to be satisfied with their overall situation. As at Berkeley’s peer institutions across the country, however, there are statistically significant differences by age, rank, gender, ethnicity, and discipline. These are of keen interest to Stacy, who hopes to determine how to improve the climate for all faculty, and especially for younger faculty, women and minorities, and those in the middle ranks.
Faculty in the highest ranks, not surprisingly, are the happiest with their situation overall (women to a lesser degree than men, however); assistant professors come next. As measured by several survey questions, though, satisfaction dips in the middle ranks.
“You get tenure and you think everything will be wonderful,” Stacy observes. “But this is also the time when faculty have a lot of things they need to get done professionally — and frequently they have growing family obligations as well. It’s tough to balance all of the demands, and to a greater degree for women than for men.”
The survey results contain important information relating to campus community. To a very large extent, faculty members agree that they work with a group of colleagues whose scholarly work is outstanding. However, faculty (particularly women) are less likely to agree that members of their department (and the campus as a whole) share a common vision, work collaboratively and democratically, enjoy good communication practices, and seek to be inclusive.
“Berkeley is a fantastic place for individual researchers, but the survey results indicate that at least half of the faculty want a more cohesive and inclusive community,” Stacy notes.
One of the most striking findings relates to mentoring of students from underrepresented groups. Across the board, at all ranks, more than 50 percent of women feel that mentoring such students is more important to them than they believe it is to their unit or department. In the humanities, where a large proportion of underrepresented students are enrolled, 75 percent of minority faculty agree that mentoring these students is undervalued. But only 20 percent of male professors at the highest ranks (above step 6) believe similarly.
What these findings suggest, says Stacy, is that minority and women faculty may be shouldering the mentoring responsibility disproportionately. This could account, in part, for their lower levels of satisfaction. “We need to find ways to acknowledge, reward, and compensate them for the time they spend on this important contribution,” she says.
Stacy’s office is interested in crafting policies to address the disparities identified by the survey. For example, the top predictors of high overall satisfaction at Berkeley are high satisfaction with both current rank and teaching responsibilities. (Third on the list, surprisingly, is the character of one’s initial welcome to campus.) Rank is more important than salary, notes Stacy, indicating that faculty “are most interested in being respected for the work that they do.”
“We can do a better job of acknowledging faculty for their outstanding work,” says Stacy. “There are things that we could easily take care of, and that would make a big difference, ultimately, in our ability to recruit and retain faculty,” she says. “It would really put us out ahead if we’d pay more attention to climate factors and work toward a more cohesive and inclusive campus.”
The Faculty Equity Office (/fea.chance.berkeley.edu/index.cfm) plans to release more information on the survey in the near future.