Faculty express low morale in survey

Carly Mathews

WKU faculty morale has been ranked as “poor” or “very poor” by more than 70 percent of faculty, according to a 2016-17 Worklife Survey conducted by the Faculty Welfare and Professional Responsibilities Committee.

The Faculty Worklife Survey covers the fall and spring 2016 semesters and asked faculty to rank their satisfaction with campus services, their workload, tenure procedures, benefits and campus leadership. The findings were reported back to the University Senate last Thursday, and are now available online.

The survey asked respondents to rate their experiences and satisfaction by marking whether they “strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree, strongly disagree or don’t have a basis for judgment.” Out of the 328 surveyed, 274 faculty members ranked their morale as “poor” or “very poor.”

For history professor and chair of the Faculty Welfare and Professional Responsibilities Committee Patricia Minter, these findings were unsurprising.

“I saw the problems that we have now coming a long time ago,” Minter said about the issues with faculty morale. “It should be no surprise that the faculty feels this way after some decisions were made.”

Minter has been the chair of the committee since 2015, after stepping down from her position as faculty regent, which she had held since 2007.

One of the largest issues with morale is the lack of raises within the last ten years, which seemed to come behind some of the university’s other projects, Minter said.

The salaries for WKU professors and associate professors rose about $1,000 from 2010 to 2015, with assistant professors earning nearly $4,000 more during that period. Those averages in 2015 were below the national average, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education’s online database.

“Decisions from our last administration put projects before people and entertainment before education,” Minter said. “The people at the top have been so concerned with fulfilling wants instead of needs, and it was something felt by the faculty.”

In addition to a low morale among faculty, the survey also found that over 100 faculty members “strongly disagreed” the Board of Regents has a genuine interest in listening to the voices of faculty, staff and students, and close to 100 faculty members “strongly disagreed” that the Board was ensuring resources were used in a way to further the university’s mission.

Many faculty members felt academics were not prioritized by former president Gary Ransdell, according to the survey.

“The president sets the tone for the budget and sets what is considered the priority, and for a long time the priority wasn’t on academics,” Minter said.

However, some faculty members are hopeful President Timothy Caboni has heard their voices, that changes will begin to be made and that people will begin to be put first.

“Obviously it’s still too early for changes to really be made, but President Caboni has already made a great first step in improving the feelings of the faculty,” Minter said. “We’re all here for him, and we notice him and the Board beginning to listen to us.”

Reporter Carly Mathews can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].