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October 29, 2012

COACHE faculty survey finds Purdue's strengths, areas for improvement

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A survey of Purdue University faculty finds several areas of satisfaction, including opportunities for interdisciplinary work and collaboration as well as support for research, says Beverly Davenport Sypher, vice provost for faculty affairs.

Davenport Sypher said the survey, conducted last fall by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at Harvard, also showed satisfaction with personal and family policies, including tuition waivers and support for families and new parents.

For the past eight years, COACHE has explored factors that predict faculty recruitment, retention and success. Until 2011-12, only the work life of pre-tenure faculty had been studied. Last year Purdue joined 76 institutions to canvass faculty at all ranks for input on a variety of issues about faculty worklife.

Purdue's response rate was 47 percent for tenured faculty and 49 percent for pre-tenure faculty, Davenport Sypher said. The average response rate for all 76 institutions was 49 percent.

Recently released survey findings indicated that faculty felt the two best aspects of working at Purdue were the quality of colleagues and the cost of living. Faculty felt location and compensation were the two things they liked the least about working at Purdue.

"Among other things, we have work to do with respect to collegiality, tenure and promotion clarity, and perceptions of leadership," Davenport Sypher said.

The survey found that faculty members were dissatisfied with leadership's pace of decision-making and the communication of priorities. They also were less satisfied than the study peers with the clarity of tenure policy and the reasonableness of criteria for being awarded tenure, said James McCann, professor of political science and provost faculty fellow who helped coordinate the survey project for the Office of the Provost. He added that input from faculty will be important as Purdue tries to improve the workplace.

"We know there is dissatisfaction at the associate professor level," McCann said. "We're going to look at associate professors and see what we can do to help them be successful. Perhaps the score in mentoring is related to what we aren't doing to help faculty reach that next rank after being tenured. We want to hear from people, and we want a frank discussion of what needs to be done."

Comments and suggestions from faculty can be sent to COACHEcomments@purdue.edu.

"This is an initiative for faculty," Davenport Sypher said. "The COACHE survey has given us some systematic data about areas of improvement. We want and need faculty to be engaged in this process.

"While there is a good deal to celebrate in terms of the work environment for Purdue faculty, the survey also identified a roadmap for improvements at all levels. A promotion and tenure task force is one example of efforts already under way to address issues highlighted in the study."

Faculty were invited to a town hall meeting on Monday (Oct. 29) with Timothy Sands, the acting president, and Victor Lechtenberg, acting provost and chief academic officer, to discuss other areas to be addressed going forward.

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, gmcclure@purdue.edu

Sources: Beverly Davenport Sypher, 765-494-9709, bdsypher@purdue.edu

James McCann, 765-494-0738, mccannj@purdue.edu