Faculty Senate survey shows concerns with morale, vision at SIU

Co-chairs+of+the+Faculty+Senate+Governance+Committee%2C+Jay+Needham+%28back%29+and+Mickey+Latour%2C+%28left%29+listen+to+Africana+Studies+Professor+Joseph+Brown+speak+at+a+Faculty+Senate+town+hall+in+Guyon+Auditorium+on+November+19%2C+2019+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+
Back to Article
Back to Article

Faculty Senate survey shows concerns with morale, vision at SIU

Co-chairs of the Faculty Senate Governance Committee, Jay Needham (back) and Mickey Latour, (left) listen to Africana Studies Professor Joseph Brown speak at a Faculty Senate town hall in Guyon Auditorium on November 19, 2019 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Co-chairs of the Faculty Senate Governance Committee, Jay Needham (back) and Mickey Latour, (left) listen to Africana Studies Professor Joseph Brown speak at a Faculty Senate town hall in Guyon Auditorium on November 19, 2019 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Amelia Blakely

Co-chairs of the Faculty Senate Governance Committee, Jay Needham (back) and Mickey Latour, (left) listen to Africana Studies Professor Joseph Brown speak at a Faculty Senate town hall in Guyon Auditorium on November 19, 2019 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Amelia Blakely

Amelia Blakely

Co-chairs of the Faculty Senate Governance Committee, Jay Needham (back) and Mickey Latour, (left) listen to Africana Studies Professor Joseph Brown speak at a Faculty Senate town hall in Guyon Auditorium on November 19, 2019 in Carbondale, Illinois.

By Amelia Blakely, Staff reporter

The majority of the university’s tenured faculty, who responded to a university Faculty Senate survey, agree there is a concern for morale and decreasing enrollment is a threat to the university, according to results presented by the university’s Faculty Senate Governance Committee at Tuesday’s Faculty Senate Town Hall. 

See more: (A smaller dip in enrollment could show SIU heading in the right direction)

Additional results show majority of tenured faculty who responded to the survey don’t understand the vision of the university and disagree that the reorganization plan is well-articulated. 

Advertisement

The survey’s goal was to determine what the major concerns are on campus, the priorities of concern and then to host a town hall meeting to discuss findings and seek input, Mickey Latour, a professor in the department of Animal Science Food and Nutrition and a co-chair of the Faculty Senate Governance Committee, said. 

“You say this is a big issue, and you’re concerned about it, where do you go from here?” Latour asked the faculty present at the town hall.

About 30 faculty members attended the event. No university administrators were present and their absence was acknowledged by faculty when discussing opportunities to find solutions. 

About 24% of the 1,371 tenured and non-tenured faculty that the survey was sent to responded, Latour said. The survey was sent to the Carbondale and Springfield campuses, which are both represented by the university’s Faculty Senate, he said. 

Committee co-chairs Jay Needham and Latour said they were happy with the amount of the survey results considering response rates for surveys are typically low. 

There were eight questions in the survey. Seven had themes covering the morale of faculty, understanding the university’s vision, trust with the administration, administrative instability, decreasing enrollment, the university reorganization and whether the administration supports shared governance. 

For some of the survey questions tenured and non-tenured faculty were split in their responses, according to data shown during the town hall.

More than 84% of tenure or tenured-track faculty agree that faculty morale is an issue, in contrast to the 15.58% of non-tenured track who agree. More than 81% of tenure or tenured-track faculty strongly disagree that they understand the university’s vision for the future, while 18.10% of NTT strongly disagree. 

Similar differences in responses are seen in the survey questions that ask if administrative instability is a problem for the university and whether the faculty trust the administration to provide honest information to them.   

The eighth question asked for the survey participants to write a phrase or single word of their choice that was then aggregated into consistent themes or words that showed up over and over, Latour said. The two words that showed up repeatedly for the final question were salary and communication. 

See more: (Database: 2019-2020 SIU Carbondale salaries)

Shane Koch, a professor in the College of Education and Human Services, said once data was presented, faculty should be cautious about making inferences about the data.

“The data collected allows us to ask some questions, and if it is the will of the faculty to do a more formal action, then this will let it happen,” he said. 

The town hall was moderated by WSIU Public Radio’s News Director Jennifer Fuller, who helped lead discussions after Latour and Needham presented the survey results. 

Regarding the decrease in enrollment, Joseph Brown, an Africana Studies professor, said the university is narrowing their scope of potential students by only wanting “prepared” students. 

“I don’t even know what that means,” he said. “If you want students, you help prepare them.”

His solution is to couple the changing racial and ethnic demographics with increasing enrollment.

“If we talk about enrollment, we need to put color in there. We need to put class in there,” Brown said. “We’ve got to put educational preparedness and not-preparedness in there, because enrollment is so easy to talk about and despair over. But we won’t talk about what are we going to do to make this institution welcoming to the people who want to come here.” 

The university also needs to be aware of the home and family situation first generation students are coming from, he said. For example, some first generation students are coming to the university in the same situation migrants crossing the U.S. border are — working to send money home to their families, Brown said.

There is also a failure to listen to students, Saliwe Kawewe, professor and director of the school of social work, said. Koch agreed, and said the bureaucracy of the university is an obstacle for students. 

Faculty also expressed being overworked because they are burdened by recruitment activities that take them away from improving their programs and departments.

“What we end up doing is going to these thrown together recruitment events that are poorly organized and poorly done, and talking to two students that maybe come,” Kathleen Schmidt, assistant professor in applied psychology and brain and cognitive sciences, said. 

Schmidt said she is bitter. 

This is because faculty are asked to do more and more when she thinks if they did fewer recruitment activities but more effectively, there would be more time to improve the quality of education at the university, she said. 

Fuller asked Schmidt what could be done better. Schmidt offered multiple examples such as being able to supervise graduate students and feeling like she didn’t have to work 100 hours a week in order to continue publishing research. 

“On top of being a full-time instructor and administrative person and not feeling ethically or morally conflicted about recruiting graduate and undergraduate students when I feel I can’t say the quality of our programs are programs they should be coming to,” she said. 

Koch responded to Schmidt’s insights and said he had never heard of SIU’s quality of education not being high. 

“That has never been a problem,” he said. “Our lack of ability to support successful programs has really hurt this school, but that’s my opinion.” 

Tobin Grant, professor and department chair of political science, said he feels the university prioritizes programs that only make money, despite many programs being nationally ranked. 

“My time and my nerves are thin,” Jane Nichols, a professor in the college of education and human services said. 

Nichols also said she was bitter because she was once a part of a renowned program that is now decimated because of poor administrative positions. 

“Faculty, I think need to take a position that isn’t always the faculty’s job to secure more students,” she said. “We’ll secure more by students by doing our job.” 

The lack of faculty understanding the university’s vision and communication were the final points of discussion.  

“What is the vision?” asked Kawewe. 

Fuller said Kawewe’s question was an answer in itself. 

“If a vision can’t be clearly articulated in this group, clearly it must be more clear and available so people are aware of what it is and how the university plans to get there,” Fuller said. 

Koch, who has worked at the university for about 16 years, said the university’s vision is always changing. 

“We change our vision, but there is no concurrence between the vision,” he said. 

Faculty also expressed frustration with the university’s top-down approach to communication.  

“There seems to be a practice of the top to communicate in a trickle down way. So when the faculty know, it’s short notice and too late,” Schmidt said. 

A decade ago, when the university had higher enrollment, the chancellor used to make annual visits to various parts on campus to get to know the students and see the work students and faculty were doing, Koch said. 

“You have to leave your damn office and work with your team,” he said.

The town hall ended with Latour looking to meet with the administration and discuss points of opportunity for change. 

“If we have the right conversations, if they’re willing to listen, we can readjust workloads,” he said. “These things can all be dealt with administratively, if they want to do it. They have to want to do it.” 

 Staff reporter Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement