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Faculty Survey: High Marks, but Problems with Pay

More than 1,400 profs rate BU in study


The first-ever Boston University faculty climate survey was conducted by the independent Web Survey Service at MIT on behalf of the BU Council for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, cochaired by (from left) Roscoe Giles, a College of Engineering professor and deputy director of the Center for Computational Science, Gloria Waters, dean of Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and University Provost David Campbell.

The results are in. According to a survey conducted in the fall by Boston University’s Council for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion (CFDI), BU professors on both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus say that, overall, they like their jobs.

Still, they see room for improvement in areas ranging from compensation to opportunities for female and minority faculty, a fact that University Provost David Campbell says was anticipated and was a major reason for the survey, which was conducted by the independent Web Survey Service at MIT.

“The intent was to discover what matters most to our faculty and to find out the areas in which we, as a university, need to improve,” says Campbell, who cochairs CFDI along with Gloria Waters, dean of Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Roscoe Giles, a College of Engineering professor and deputy director of the Center for Computational Science. “This survey will also give us an important baseline from which to measure our progress as we implement new policies in the years to come,” Campbell says.

The faculty climate survey, as it is known, was conducted online and covered a range of topics, from satisfaction rates to sources of stress to perception of career opportunities. Questions were drawn largely from a survey designed by the Washington, D.C.–based Association of American Universities, which has been adapted for use by many other universities, including Harvard and Duke, and from a survey created by Washington University in St. Louis. About 70 percent of professors on the Charles River Campus completed the survey, while around half of those who teach on the Medical Campus participated. The full results are available on the CFDI Web site.

The big faculty climate picture at BU is largely positive. About 70 percent of respondents on both campuses said they were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with being a faculty member here. Likewise, 76 percent of respondents on the Charles River and 70 percent on the Medical Campus expressed satisfaction with their teaching responsibilities, and 79 percent of Charles River professors, along with 86 percent on the Medical Campus, were satisfied with the “intellectual stimulation” of their work.

Results were more mixed when faculty were asked about their satisfaction with “time available for scholarly work” and “support for securing grants.” Of the Charles River faculty responding, 46 percent were dissatisfied and 35 percent were satisfied with the time they had for scholarly work. When it came to support for securing grants, about a third of respondents from both campuses were dissatisfied, a third satisfied, and a third were either neutral or said the question didn’t apply to them.

Faculty on both campuses expressed dissatisfaction with their level of inclusion in decisions guiding the direction of BU. A majority of faculty felt they had a voice in decisions affecting their department (65 percent on the Charles River and 60 percent on the Medical Campus), but far fewer felt included in decisions made on the level of their college, and only 15 percent of Charles River faculty and 11 percent of professors on the Medical Campus believed they had a say in decisions affecting BU as a whole.

“BU is a big place, and that’s one of our challenges,” says Waters in response to these findings. “We need to work on having people feel a sense of inclusion in the University.”

The survey also revealed stark differences between Charles River and Medical faculty when it came to both salary satisfaction and the perception of professional opportunities for women and minority faculty. The majority of Charles River faculty (56 percent) said they were dissatisfied with their compensation. On the Medical Campus, about the same proportion of faculty (57 percent) reported being satisfied with their salaries.

“It certainly was not a surprise that people on the Charles River are dissatisfied with their compensation,” says Roscoe Giles. “We knew that from the work of the Faculty Council committees.”

According to the American Association of University Professors, the average salary for a full professor at BU last year was $122,200, below the mean ($135,600) for peer universities, but comparable with institutions such as George Washington University ($123,900) and more than nearby Tufts University ($118,500) and Northeastern University ($119,700). Associate and assistant professors on BU’s Charles River Campus earned an average of $81,700 and $69,800, respectively. The higher salary satisfaction on the Medical Campus, says Waters, was mostly likely “a reflection of market realities,” which bring higher salaries to medical professionals.

Faculty on the Charles River Campus also gave lower marks than their Medical Campus counterparts did to the treatment of BU’s female and minority faculty. About 38 percent of the faculty at Charles River schools and colleges agreed with a statement that female professors at BU had the same quality of work environment and advancement opportunities as male professors and 36 percent disagreed. Nearly 50 percent of Medical Campus professors agreed with the statement. Likewise, 30 percent of Charles River professors felt minority faculty at BU enjoyed the same work climate and opportunities as nonminority faculty, versus 25 percent who said they did not. By contrast, on the Medical Campus, 45 percent said minority faculty had the same opportunities as their nonminority counterparts, and only 18 percent disagreed.

Demographically, according to January 2008 numbers from BU’s Office of Institutional Research, Charles River Campus faculty are more male (67 percent) and more white (88 percent) than are the faculty on the Medical Campus, where 56 percent are male and 79 percent are white. While none of the CFDI cochairs would speculate immediately on the reasons for the disparity in responses between the two campuses, Giles and Waters suggest that those reasons might be revealed by ongoing “fine-grain” analysis of the survey data, in which responses will be broken down by college, professorial rank, gender, and ethnicity.

All of the subsequent data analyses will be posted on the CFDI Web site, says Giles, except for the breakdown of responses by race and ethnicity, because the small numbers of underrepresented minority faculty at BU would compromise the anonymity of the respondents.

“I mean, if we say, African-American full professors in engineering,” Giles says with a laugh, “well, that’s me.”

The committee will also compare BU’s survey data with results from similar surveys conducted at comparable universities, and CFDI will use the survey results to help make recommendations on where additional University resources would be most effective in increasing faculty satisfaction and retention, a major goal of Boston University’s 10-year strategic plan, which was unveiled last spring.

“This survey gives us the metrics to measure progress as we implement policies over the years,” says Waters. “These initial results will be our baseline.”

Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu. Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.

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4 Comments on Faculty Survey: High Marks, but Problems with Pay

  • Anonymous on 01.16.2008 at 7:53 am


    This is a fascinating story with loads of interesting statistics. Unfortunately the single, simplistic graph at the bottom of the page falls flat when compared to the text above.

  • Anonymous on 01.16.2008 at 8:25 pm

    Adjunct Faculty

    This is a flawed and incomplete survey.
    Adjunct Faculty were prohibited from participating in this survey. Many departments of many Colleges within BU rely on relatively large numbers of Adjunct Faculty to teach a significant percentage of their course offerings. Students earn important academic credits in courses taught by adjunct faculty. This exclusion from this survey is another case of adjunct faculty being excluded from BU’s Academic Community.
    This survey is seriously flawed as a result and certainly does not represent the “climate” of the Adjunct Faculty. It does not show a correct picture of this university.
    Academic Snobbery?
    Academic Discrimination?
    Academic Foolishness?

  • Anonymous on 01.22.2008 at 2:25 pm

    faculty survey

    If the faculty on the Charles River campus is 67% male and 88% of the faculty is white, is there really a question about whether there is equal opportunity for minorities and women on that campus? Yet, 36% of respondents thought women and minorities had equal opportunity. What does that say?

    But where are the stats showing how minorities and women themselves believe they are being treated, paid, promoted, etc.? A percentage of the overall faculty may feel that women are being treated and paid well but that doesn’t mean that the members of that group, women, experience it that way. The reality is that minorities and women are not.

  • Lorna Eatwell on 01.29.2008 at 8:49 pm

    This is a positive step in the right direction. I hope that faculty will have an increased say in strategic planning and programming at BU. In addition, I believe this survey illustrates our continued support of hiring and retaining high quality women and minority faculty.

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