Collaborative on Academic Careers in Education (COACHE)
Stony Brook University 2017 Faculty Satisfaction Survey
Faculty are the central pillar of academic institutions, shaping their quality, serving as the repository of their history and culture, and driving their future. Through their scholarship, research, teaching and mentoring, they are at the heart of higher education.
The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education surveys faculty members at different colleges and universities across the country to explore issues that contribute to faculty satisfaction. SUNY partnered with COACHE to distribute the survey to all of the SUNY campuses. At Stony Brook University, a team of faculty, the COACHE team, reviewed the survey questions, which were then distributed to the faculty. The Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey was administered in February/March 2017.
Responses by Area
Nearly half (42 percent) of SBU’s non-medical, full-time, tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members completed the survey, which was administered online. The SBU response rate aligned closely with the overall response rate (46 percent) for faculty at institutions nationwide.
Of non-medical faculty respondents:
- 535 were tenured
- 197 were tenure-track
- 303 were non-tenure-track
Forty-one percent of SBU’s tenured faculty and 47 percent of tenure-track faculty responded; 57 percent of respondents were from the College of Arts and Sciences and 13 percent from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Of School of Medicine respondents (23 percent of total faculty):
- 56 were tenured
- 21 were tenure-track
- 87 were non-tenure-track
In addition to providing data on SBU, the COACHE survey compared the University’s results with those from peer institutions. Five public AAU institutions were chosen for comparison, and COACHE provided separate analyses that compared SBU with its peers and to all institutions that participated in the study in the past academic year. The peer institutions were Indiana University Bloomington; University of Arizona; University at Buffalo; University of California, Davis; and University of Pittsburgh.
Highest Levels of Satisfaction
Nearly three-fifths — 57 percent — of SBU faculty responded that they “ would again choose this institution,” citing that some of the best aspects of working at the University were the quality and support of their colleagues and high caliber of the graduate students.
The University’s departmental and institutional collaborative environment ranked higher than those of other institutions, as did the perceived effort on mentoring. In addition, tenure-track faculty responded that they appreciated the opportunities for interdisciplinary work at the University.
SBU faculty also responded more favorably than faculty at other institutions about the health and retirement benefits offered here. They cited satisfaction with the quality and type of university service in which they participate. This was true for our tenure-track faculty, female faculty and our faculty of color (faculty of color were defined by COACHE as American Indian or Native American, Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, and Multiracial).
Our faculty also responded more favorably about the appreciation and recognition they received than did faculty at peer institutions, and were satisfied with the time spent on teaching, level of courses taught, discretion over course content and teaching schedule.
Lowest Levels of Satisfaction
The survey also identified aspects of our workplace that deserve more careful evaluation and improvement. SBU faculty were less satisfied than faculty at peer institutions or nationwide about aspects of interaction with senior leadership and the process of shared governance. These included trust, shared sense of purpose, understanding the issues, adaptability and productivity.
Across metrics related to tenure and promotion, SBU faculty’s responses scored lower than responses from faculty at other institutions. SBU female faculty were more satisfied about the clarity of tenure expectations compared with their male counterparts, but they were less satisfied about the policies governing promotion to full professor.
Significant points of dissatisfaction for SBU faculty included personal and family policies and cost of living. When asked to identify the two “worst aspects” of working at SBU, the quality of the facilities and the inadequacy of support for research/creative work topped the list.
The survey’s findings represent a starting point and road map for programmatic improvements at all levels. They mark an occasion for evaluation of the comments, deliberation and planning.
Some of the concerns raised have been already recognized as areas that need attention and, even prior to the survey responses, efforts are underway to address them. Such areas include concerns about family accommodations and flexibility, clarifying procedures leading to promotion and tenure, and increasing the quality of mentoring for tenure-track and newly tenured faculty, as well as the processes that govern the career path of some non-tenure-track faculty (professors of practice).
Although survey responses revealed that there are aspects of SBU to celebrate, such as work environment at the departmental level for faculty, senior leadership is committed to work with faculty to explore the issues that emerged from the COACHE responses. It will follow the recommendations and priorities that the COACHE team and other engaged faculty will suggest to make more informed decisions about how to improve faculty work life, trust and recognition.