The University Record, March 20, 2000

Report gives valuable information about faculty life at U-M

By Rebecca A. Doyle

How do faculty at the University perceive their environment, the quality and quantity of work they and others produce? How do junior faculty spend their time in contrast to senior faculty? Are there differences between men and women faculty members in how their time is spent?

These questions and more were posed to 2,624 faculty on the Ann Arbor campus who held at least half-time appointments, who had been at the U-M for one year or more, and who were tenured or in tenure-track appointments, clinical II faculty or lecturers. The research team, from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE) and the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), received responses from 44 percent of those contacted. The study was funded by the Office of the Provost.

Results of the study revealed no great surprises, but pointed to a number of areas where the University should direct its efforts to improving the climate for faculty, Provost Nancy Cantor notes.

“Having access to data that bear significantly on faculty satisfaction will, I hope, help us identify and examine those areas where we can do a better job of shaping University policy and practice to encourage the transformation of academic culture and attitudes to embrace diversity and collaborations,” she said.

The Faculty Work-Life Study Report, released in January, analyzed faculty responses by rank, by gender controlled for rank, by race controlling for rank, and by division.

“On the whole,” Cantor says, “the study suggests that we have a very talented, hardworking, highly productive and dedicated faculty. However, we still have work to do. The 1996 data on which the study is based show that there are troubling differences in some aspects of faculty life related to the gender or race of the faculty member.”

While the study shows that faculty members work an average of 57 hours per week, women and faculty of color at all ranks reported that they spend somewhat more than the average number of hours working.

All faculty spent similar amounts of time teaching, but there was some variation according to rank on how the rest of their working time was spent. Assistant professors said they spent more time advising students and working on scholarship and research, and senior faculty reported spending more time on service activities.

In addition, female assistant professors reported a higher percentage of their time spent each week on internal University service activities than male assistant professors, and women assistant and associate professors both reported that they more frequently conferred and consulted with students on a daily or weekly basis than did their male counterparts.

“For the most part, these are small differences,” Cantor says, “but we need to remember that even small but incremental differences can be significant when aggregated over several years.

“Service and informal teaching may well be beneficial in integrating women early on into their department and the University, but these data remind us that we need to make sure this is time well spent and that we are not forcing junior women to make a choice between being collaborative, helpful and integrated and being successful in the academy.”

The report noted the attributes that are necessary for tenured and tenure-track faculty to feel satisfied with their careers and the items related to their current levels of career satisfaction. For example, faculty ranked maintaining personal integrity, enjoying their work and working with intellectually stimulating colleagues as three items in the list of attributes that they most needed to feel satisfied in their careers. In addition, they said they were currently most satisfied with their sense of being valued as a mentor or adviser by their students, of being valued as a teacher by their students and their opportunities to mentor students. Most faculty reported being generally satisfied with their position, although that satisfaction increased as rank increased.

Clinical faculty reported the highest level of satisfaction with their positions. Highest on the list of items important to that satisfaction were enjoying their work and those they worked with, maintaining personal integrity, achieving a balance between personal and professional life, and sparking interest in students.

Asked about the climate at the U-M, faculty reported that their colleagues generally gave them and their research moderate degrees of respect, recognition and value. But women assistant professors reported that they received lower levels of respect, recognition and value for their work than men in the same rank.

The questionnaire also polled faculty about whether they had found mentors within their unit and within the U-M. Their responses show that women and faculty of color were less likely to have mentors in the same unit and women are more likely to have a mentor either in a different unit or at another institution. Faculty of color were more likely to have established relationships with a mentor in another institution. CEW director Carol Hollenshead says this is a meaningful finding. “Having mentors in your own department can be critical to success in the pre-tenure period,” she notes.

Hollenshead also says that the data show that the stresses accompanying work-life issues are “potentially more acute for women at all ranks than for their male counterparts.” For example, 37 percent of the spouses or partners of male assistant professors are employed full time while 89 percent of the partners or spouses of female faculty are in the work force full time.

Women faculty in all ranks and both women and men of color were more likely to report an experience of discrimination or harassment. One of seven faculty members at all ranks reported having experienced discrimination and one of eight reported having been harassed.

College of Engineering Prof. Tony England looks at the report as a confirmation of anecdotal information. “This information is valuable because it puts numbers to some of the anecdotal experiences we had heard. It is consistent with what I had heard before.”

England notes that one of the important things to remember about the report is that is does not make recommendations, only presents the findings. Looking at the data himself, England says the U-M “is not doing terribly, but we are trying to be leaders in creating a climate that attracts faculty. This study tells us that we have a way to go to be leaders among our peers, particularly in the numbers of minority and women faculty, and in their perception of this being a good place to be.”

Principal investigators for the study are Hollenshead and the late Robert T. Blackburn, who died before all the data of the study had been analyzed. Blackburn was a professor of education at the School of Education’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education.

Additional researchers were Patrick Coen, doctoral student, CSHPE; Gloria Thomas, doctoral candidate, CSHPE; Jean Waltman, doctoral candidate, CSHPE; and Stacy Wenzel, director of fieldwork for the Annenberg Research Project, University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.


Faculty Work-Life Report focus of brown-bagger

The report and results of the survey will be the subject of a brown-bag lunch noon–1:30 p.m. March 23 at the Center for the Education of Women, 300 E. Liberty St. The discussion will focus on data that point out gender differences in the U-M climate, career satisfaction, workload and productivity.

The report is on the Web at www.umich.edu/~cew/pubs.html.