Faculty want change: COACHE survey reports on teacher satisfaction at Radford University

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Radford University conducted the COACHE survey on faculty satisfaction this year in order to gather information on areas of improvement for faculty and staff in relation to policies at Radford.

Administered by Harvard University, the survey found marked dissatisfaction among the individuals who took the survey, particularly female faculty of color and associate faculty. Beyond this, a full 58 percent of faculty surveyed felt that institutional policies have changed in ways that negatively affect their work. The survey was free for Radford to participate in, “which is, I guess, obvious- because otherwise we would not have participated,” Dr. Laura Jacobsen, presenter and president of the faculty senate, joked at the beginning of the presentation.

The worst-rated areas were pay, teachers workload, administrative leadership, and support for research/creative work- particularly collaborative work between departments. “A lot of it wasn’t a surprise. The increased positive notes were pleasing, and moderately surprising,” an Art faculty member, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Many professors were hesitant to speak critically on University policies that they were not fond of. “There’s a growing push for research, but they’re not expecting us to lower our work on anything else,” an anonymous criminal justice professor said. Teachers are expected to teach the normal course load, and also take on additional research burdens. Often, professors are not given research credits: a way of telling the university that a professor is doing approximately one class worth of work on research, which is often conducted with students. Without being given these credits, a professor’s research often gets pushed to the side as time is devoted to the expected courseload.

Professors said they were pleased, however, with RU’s location, their sense of fit here, and with their peers. The support of their colleagues, and the departmental leadership, meant a lot to faculty who were frustrated with administrative policies that they felt did not support them as well as they could have.

The survey compared Radford University to five other schools in the area: Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Western Carolina University, and on several measures, satisfaction scored below all five in categories such as Senior Leadership, Mentoring, and Tenure reasonableness. However, RU scored highly on overall satisfaction regarding promotion and when asked, just over half of the faculty said that if they had to do everything all over again, they would choose to do it at Radford University.

The survey suggested a childcare initiative for those faculty with young children, domestic partner benefits, improved parental leave, and a faculty lunchroom. The point of the forum was to help Radford “[use] the results from the survey in constructive ways,” said Dr. Jacobsen. Reduced tuition for the children of faculty had been discussed, but was eventually shot down, as the group reviewing it didn’t want it to seem like an “elitist thing.”

The survey raised important questions among faculty, but also should among informed students, since the decisions made at the administrative level have an impact upon students as well. Faculty satisfaction with life at RU impacts the functionality of the courses that they teach, thus impacting students. Hopefully the report will help highlight problems and positives here at Radford University in the future.

The COACHE report is available publicly and in full here: http://www.radford.edu/content/dam/departments/administrative/faculty-senate/Reports/Administrative%20Reports/COACHE-Provost-Report-2013.pdf