Surveys find dissatisfaction with UND staff influence
GRAND FORKS, N.D.--At the beginning of the school year, many faculty members at UND felt they didn't have influence over policy decisions, according to a survey.
GRAND FORKS, N.D.-At the beginning of the school year, many faculty members at UND felt they didn't have influence over policy decisions, according to a survey.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported they believed faculty doesn't have "sufficient influence on decisions" regarding allocation of resources at UND, 82 percent felt the same about institutional priorities, 80 percent said faculty needed more input on administrative procedure and organizational structures and 79 percent wanted more input on appointment, promotion and evaluation of administrators.
But University Senate Chairwoman Melissa Gjellstad said much has changed over the school year, including the development of a new incentive-based budget model and a move toward the creation of a Faculty Senate.
"It's a change in the right direction, and I think it's an opportunity for us at the institution to roll up our sleeves to see where we're at, where we want to go and how we're going to get there," she said.
On the survey last fall, 64 percent said they thought faculty didn't have enough influence over academic organization as well.
Thirty-two percent of UND's more than 800 faculty responded, with 57 percent of those respondents reporting they are tenure faculty. Gjellstad was impressed with the response rate and said it showed faculty engagement.
The study was done by UND professor Marcus Weaver-Hightower to delve into what faculty think about a different governance structure instead of the current system of having a University Senate--which consists of student, administrative, faculty and staff representatives--and a Staff Senate.
The most frequent question from faculty who were undecided on the shared governance idea was whether a Faculty Senate would have any power with current administration.
At the same time, almost 61 percent of respondents said they felt the University Senate system was "somewhat to very effective" in representing faculty interests.
Faculty reported being more satisfied with academic policy, with 62 percent responding that they felt they had say over teaching quality, 61 percent reporting they had enough power over grades and attendance and degree requirements and 58 percent reporting they had power over research and scholarship.
Gjellstad said the survey showed faculty had influence over areas where faculty typically have control.
The academic area where faculty reported having the least amount of control was with admission standards.
"I think that in some respects the senate structure itself is influencing the areas we indeed expect to have the most influence in," Gjellstad said.
The idea of having a separate senate was also brought up at the February State of the University Address, though Gjellstad said the idea has been tossed around for years.
"The survey itself was because of an ongoing multi-year conversation about if we should move to a different model," she said.
Ninety-three respondents, or about 35 percent, said they would definitely be in favor of a separate Faculty Senate and the second-highest group of 83 respondents, a little over 30 percent, said they "need to know more."
A new senate
Since the results of the survey were discussed at a January University Senate meeting, an ad hoc committee developed a process of creating the Faculty Senate and by February the group was discussing the steps that would need to be taken to make it a reality, according to meeting minutes.
In March, Gjellstad reported a Faculty Senate referendum had received a 39 percent response rate and 80 percent of those were in favor of the creation of that separate senate and by the next meeting in April, a motion was made and passed to do just that.
A Senate Development Committee will prepare the proper documents for the University Senate to approve at its first meeting in the fall of 2015. Those still in the University Senate will move into the Faculty Senate and technically serve on both during that transition period.
As the Faculty Senate emerges, consisting of those with its namesake title, the University Senate will continue to exist but Gjellstad said it hasn't been decided who will be in that group.
"There is a desire to have an elegant, thoughtful discussion that would link the leadership of all those groups," she said.