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Faculty survey shows care for teaching, value of diversity/inclusiveness
September 11, 2015Tweet
Binghamton University faculty like, respect and value their students; care about teaching; and value diversity and inclusiveness according to results from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) Faculty Survey Report.
Administered on a triennial basis by the HERI at UCLA since 1969, the survey was given to Binghamton faculty for the first time in fall 2014. Overall, 47 percent of the 930 Binghamton faculty who received it completed the survey – 87 percent of respondents were full-time faculty.
The survey is designed to provide colleges and universities with timely information about faculty workload, teaching practices, job satisfaction, professional activities and perceptions. Participating institutions can select their own sample. Binghamton compares itself to public universities as a whole as well as to a sub-set of that group, highly selective public universities.
“This is known as the flagship faculty survey done by one of the leading research institutes on higher education, and the questions line up really well with our strategic plan laid out by the Road Map,” said Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman. “We care a great deal about what faculty think. How we’re doing can be assessed in a variety of ways such as through our Road Map metrics, but how faculty feel we are doing is a really good barometer as well.
“They are key to driving us where we go and we care about their perceptions,” he added. “That is very consistent with the inclusive process of the Road Map so this is one more way to continue to get feedback from faculty and staff constituent groups.”
“The results of this survey are very valuable to the campus as we continue to assess and improve our teaching and research activities,” President Harvey Stenger said. “The survey was quite comprehensive, dealing with teaching and research activities as well as campus climate. We value the fact that so many of our faculty took the time to respond as thoughtfully as they did. Their responses will help us as we look at the areas where we’re doing well and how they align with our strategic plan, as well as the areas where we can do better.”
“There were virtually no statistical differences between Binghamton and other highly selective publics like William and Mary and UCLA, though there are some areas where we are better in a significant way,” Nieman said. “We should feel good about that. They are the company we want to be keeping.”
When asked to review the survey results, Susan Strehle, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, found the sections on teaching and interactions with students especially notable. “When it comes to teaching, faculty are really happy to be here,” she said. “They believe in the school.”
Comparisons with other institutions indicate Binghamton faculty spend more time with students meeting outside of class, mentoring them and connecting them with networks, she said. Other results indicate Binghamton’s international and domestic students work well together across all schools, and that students are trained to conduct research responsibly and ethically. “The faculty who answered the survey may not love everything about their jobs, but they do love their classes and feel positive and engaged about teaching these students.
“Across all schools, the survey shows that our faculty encourage students to use different points of view to make an argument and ask them to critically evaluate their position on an issue,” she said. “For me this is watershed. I think we’re becoming a nation that doesn’t care about dialogue anymore, but our faculty do care. I feel that on a national level, we are teaching well and especially teaching well in the sense that in every field we ask students to think, question, involve themselves, look at their own biases.”
The results “absolutely did excite me,” Strehle said. “The survey results made me proud of my colleagues. Yes, we want to prepare graduates for employment, but more important, we want them to be able to think critically.”
Binghamton faculty reported that they publish less than their counterparts at highly selective public universities, although the difference is not statistically significant. In fact, the survey revealed no significant differences between scholarly practices and productivity of Binghamton faculty and faculty at other highly selective universities.
Binghamton faculty also believe the institution places less emphasis on recruiting faculty stars than peers at benchmark schools. “While we have hired some outstanding senior scholars, our approach has been to hire excellent entry level faculty and mid-career faculty and provide them the support they need to be successful,” Nieman said. “As they come on board, their productivity lags for a couple of years, then it blossoms. I feel that’s a winning strategy for us and I would point out that of the recent crop of faulty we’ve hired, three have won NSF CAREER awards.”
“My takeaway message from the survey would be that our goal is to become the premier public in the U.S. and we are stacking up well against some of the very best public universities in the country,” Nieman said. “We have a ways to go to make our goal, but we’re clearly making progress.”