Universities perform best when there is ongoing dialogue across various groups in the community. However, there are too few opportunities for all faculty to express their evaluations of various features of their jobs.
Georgetown is one of many universities participating in the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE). COACHE is based at the Harvard School of Education and conducts a web-based survey of faculty at participating institutions. In order to check on whether Georgetown is making progress on important features of the university, we conduct the survey every two years. By comparing the aggregate statistics over time, we can all assess whether things are getting better, staying the same, or getting worse. As provost, I found the systematic measurement very useful. Use of the Harvard team to conduct the survey allowed us to assure faculty that administrators, like the provost, would never be able to associate answers with individual faculty members. Only statistical summaries of data are available to the provost’s office, deans, or unit heads. In the coming days, each faculty member will receive an email request to participate in this year’s version of the survey.
In a real way, the survey is a report-card on the provost office, to give guidance on what parts of a faculty career are working well and what, not so well.
The topics include some on the nature of the faculty work (research, teaching, and service), the nature of resources and support available to faculty; support of interdisciplinary work, collaboration and mentoring; tenure and promotion processes; institutional leadership; the effectiveness of shared governance; departmental/unit engagement, quality, and collegiality; appreciation and recognition; and retention of faculty.
We all may feel bombarded by survey requests, but this one guides real decisions in the university administration. For example, in one of the early surveys the faculty gave low ratings for the university support for interdisciplinary work. This led to a full-blown effort to improve that support, from the Humanities Initiative, the Technology and Society Initiative, the Emergent Ethics Network (URLs), and others.
Similarly, there was evidence of lack of clarity of tenure and promotion standards, and concerns among associate professors with regard to mentoring support. This led to an effort at clarification and continuing workshops for faculty anticipating entering the promotion process.
None of this progress would have been possible without the participation of faculty in completing the survey questionnaire in prior years.
I hope that the faculty receiving the survey invitation will choose to convey their input to the overall evaluation of the work environment at Georgetown. Full presentation of the survey aggregated results will follow in open meetings with the faculty.