Faculty Senate Survey
In fall 2014, with support from VIRG, the Faculty Senate developed and administered a short, anonymous, qualitative survey to all Vanderbilt faculty requesting information regarding:
1) faculty and other matters that our colleagues wanted to highlight for the Senate
2) preferred methods of providing feedback to the Faculty Senate
3) ways in which the Faculty Senate can better communicate with Faculty.
Open-ended responses were received from 1,075 faculty members for a response rate of 37%. The Faculty Senate Affairs Committee categorized and discussed all responses and communicated findings to the Senate. Senator Brian Heuser, Chair of the Faculty Life Committee notes, “The Faculty Life Committee was tasked with prioritizing and agenda setting during the 2015-16 academic year. In the course of examining the qualitative data from the survey, it became evident that the Faculty Senate needs better quantitative data on the domains of most importance to faculty. The Faculty Life Committee introduced a motion, which was approved by the Provost and Chancellor, to use the 2014 results summarized below to inform a newly constructed quantitative Faculty Survey that will launch in Spring 2017.”
Summarized below are the categories of concern most often reported in the 2014 survey. We group categories into those that have been “achieved” and those efforts that are “ongoing.”
• Increase Communication: As Senate Affairs Chair Buddy Creech noted, “There was a desire for more communication from and interaction with the Senate. To that end, the Senate has launched a monthly newsletter, Engage, expanded its website, including the addition of a password-protected website (the “Portal”). The idea for a monthly newsletter was a suggestion provided in our survey.” To follow the Senate, go to www.vanderbilt.edu/facultysenate where you can read archived editions of Engage and log into the Portal. Contact your senator with your feedback or leave an anonymous message through the Senate portal.
• Transparency in Faculty Hires and Salaries: There was interest in broader dissemination of statistical information regarding salaries and headcount. Vice Chancellor Sweet reported in the Senate meeting on September 10, 2015 that faculty staff growth for the ten-year period ending June 30, 2015 increased 15 percent and 26 percent, respectively. The faculty-to-staff ratio also increased 10 percent during this time. Faculty growth has outpaced student growth and faculty and staff salary increases have also outpaced inflation during the last ten years.
• Increase Faculty Involvement: There was interest in greater Senate-led involvement of faculty in Senate presentations. The Senate has partnered with senior leaders to solicit faculty concerns and questions in advance of Senate presentations; see the Portal for the questions received and answers provided. The Senate has held two town halls related to the planned VU-VUMC reorganization (August 20 and October 30). See the Provost’s website for recent senior-level search committees with faculty membership.
• Mentoring Junior Faculty: There was a strong desire for mentoring and support of junior colleagues. Several issues have been instituted to support junior faculty. For example, the Chancellor’s Faculty Fellows program was started last year.
• Senate Partnerships: There was interest in Senate-partnership with and support of the student body. Last year’s Senate partnered with the Office of the Provost on the Graduate Education Study Group (GESG). The Provost announced new investments in the graduate school on August 24 in MyVU. A full-time Dean is being sought for the graduate school informed by both the work of the GESG and four forums held across campus to solicit additional feedback.
• Address Inclusivity: There were proposals for more initiatives addressing inclusivity. The Chancellor has launched a University-wide, faculty-led committee on Diversity and Inclusion. The Senate is partnering with the Vanderbilt Student Government and the Office of LGBTQI Life to address issues related to gender awareness and training. George Hill was named Vice Chancellor of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in November 2015.
• Campus Safety: There was a desire for a safe campus. Last year’s Senate spearheaded Title IX training in partnership with the Department of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services (“EAD”) under then Senate Chair Paul Lim. Additional communications and training will be forthcoming early in 2016 related to the July 1, 2015 federal changes to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
• Senate Role in Travel Policy: There were requests for more Senate engagement on matters related to travel. A new travel agency was hired by a University-wide committee including staff and faculty membership. The Senate has partnered with VU Travel, University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) leadership, and Medical Center Staff Advisory Council (MCSAC) leadership to institute a traveler satisfaction survey that will launch in December 2015 and February 2016 to all travel agency users. The survey is designed to identify concerns, problems with the new agency so that they can be proactively addressed.