For richer, for poorer: faculty morale in periods of austerity and retrenchment.
49. -----. "A Theoretical Analysis of Faculty Job Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction." Educational Research Quarterly, 10 (1986/87), 36-44.
50. Hines, E. R. "Higher Education and State Governments: Renewed Partnership, Cooperation, or Competition?" ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, no. 4. Washington, D.C.: George The great public universities reflect the investment citizens have made in building the commonwealth's educational and scientific infrastructure |61~.
In many states, facilities and courses have been cut, and students have been crowded out of classes.... Master teachers are being paid -- "bribed" is the word that comes to mind -- to retire early simply because the university needs their salaries. Programs that took 20 years to build are dissolving; some of the best, most respected administrators and teachers have gone elsewhere. Budget cuts have stripped the university bare, leaving it without money to keep up a decent research library, without money for building programs. Morale -- of students and faculty members -- is low |21~.
This article presents a case study of faculty morale and employment issues at an American public research university that has experienced an extended period of fiscal austerity. It sheds new light on how faculty compensation, job satisfaction, morale, and institutional commitment are influenced by changing institutional funding patterns -- patterns which reflect the widening gap between rich and poor segments of American society characterizing the 1980s and 1990s |20, 80~. These gaps are intensifying what Barbara Scott |93~ has called "the new academic stratification system."
Fiscal Strains in American Public Higher Education
As the United States entered the last decade of the twentieth century, much of American public higher education was facing profound economic uncertainty and financial retrenchment, forcing many institutions to eliminate academic programs and reduce academic personnel |4, 5~. This phenomenon is an outgrowth of state governments that are undergoing severe fiscal strains due to the volatile nature of the national economy |39, 42, 50, 51~. Recent stories in the Chronicle of Higher Education observe that over half the states faced serious financial deficits in the 1990-91 and 1991-92 fiscal years and have been forced to cut overall appropriations for public higher education |11, 17, 54, 72~. While some states experienced moderate financial growth in their higher education budgets during the 1980s, others saw periods of sharp decline in allocation of public resources, particularly for their academic institutions. In these latter states, additional cuts in public resources during the 1990s will significantly affect "core" programs in academic institutions which have few financial reserves to absorb further budget reductions.
One type of academic institution that has been particularly affected by changes in public higher education funding patterns is the public research university |93, 95, 98~. Because state governments historically have been the largest single source of revenue for public academic institutions, decreases in state funding have forced public research universities to raise increased shares of their resources through grants and contracts from corporations, other private funding agencies, and the federal government. This has resulted in a checkerboard funding pattern within institutions for various academic disciplines. While fields like business and the physical sciences have often been able to obtain alternative funding for research, many fields within the humanities, social sciences, education, and human services have been largely dependent upon the states' shrinking general funds. State economic development initiatives and private sector demands for increased research and development assistance are further widening the gulf between the "have" and "have not" disciplines in American public research universities |6, 96, 97~.
In this climate of fiscal austerity faculty salaries and the overall quality of academic worklife have been detrimentally affected. Studies published in the 1980s by Bowen and Schuster |14, 90, 91~, noted that earnings among college faculty between 1970 and the early 1980s declined by over 15 percent, the largest loss among any professional group in the United States. Furthermore, the American Association of University Professors in its annual study of faculty salaries |2~ found that the overall level of salaries for faculty in 1990-91 was still 8 percent lower than it had been two decades earlier. Hansen |45~ has echoed the AAUP in observing widening disparities in faculty salaries based on academic discipline. Many of the "have" fields which are receiving large sums of private financial support (business, engineering, computer science, medicine) are far surpassing the "have-not" fields (humanities, social sciences, human services, arts) in their abilities to offer annual starting salaries above $40,000.
While low salaries are often cited as a primary indicator of deteriorating conditions for college faculty, declines in the vitality and morale of faculty have also been identified |23, 24, 52~. Declines in morale may be particularly acute in periods of institutional retrenchment that result in reduction or elimination of valued academic programs and faculty positions |103~. Many recent studies of college professors have focused on increased stress, declining job satisfaction, and tension between competing institutional missions of teaching and research |8, 9, 29~. Others have emphasized the relative disadvantages faced by women who aspire to hold tenured faculty positions, including lower salaries, less job security, and fewer support systems within the academy than have typically been available to men |22, 84, 99~.
According to recent national surveys of the American professoriate, faculty generally feel least satisfied with low salaries and poor relations with senior academic administrators |7, 18, 69~. Deteriorating quality of worklife issues and diminishing resources for both current faculty and graduate students have been identified as among the chief causes of declines in the numbers and quality of new Ph.D.'s granted in many academic fields |14, 47, 59, 70~. Institutional responses to faculty compensation issues have typically focused upon maintaining a delicate balance between providing adequate salaries and professional development opportunities for existing faculty and acquiring enough resources to attract desirable new faculty -- in short, on being effective at both retention and recruitment of faculty |15, 32, 62, 91~. As the proportion of an institution's retiring faculty increases during the 1990s while the supply of available resources for faculty is decreasing, many academic institutions may choose to eliminate academic programs deemed no longer "affordable" in order to preserve resources for other programs and academic personnel within the institution. In this context of diminishing and changing sources of funding for American higher education, many faculty may become increasingly discontent with their jobs and their employing institutions.
Purpose of the Case Study
Our primary interest in conducting this study was to inquire about perceived issues of greatest concern to faculty at the University of Oregon, an institution that has experienced a sustained period of fiscal austerity |37, 73~. We wanted empirical evidence about levels of faculty job satisfaction and morale that would allow comparison of faculty opinions in 1990 with studies of University of Oregon faculty opinions conducted in 1972 by Feuille and Blandin |37, 38~. We also wished to compare University of Oregon faculty attitudes with those obtained in a 1988 national survey of faculty job satisfaction published by the National Center for Educational Statistics |69~. We chose a case study format for this research because, as Yin |104~ observes, it permits investigation of a phenomenon such as faculty morale within its real-life context while permitting uses of multiple sources of evidence by the researcher. This format allowed us to work with information obtained from individuals participating in strategic planning at the University of Oregon, including survey data, follow-up interviews with approximately one dozen randomly selected individual faculty, and strategic planning reports produced by individuals and committees at the University.
The institution that is the focus of our case study, the University of Oregon, is often described as the state flagship public liberal arts research university. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), in 1990 it had approximately eleven hundred faculty-rank employees and seventeen thousand students. During the past two decades the University of Oregon has received public funding on a per-student basis that is far below amounts obtained by other comparable public research universities |61~. Additionally, it has experienced repeated periods of financial retrenchment resulting in academic program reductions, loss of support services, and cuts in faculty positions |27, 37, 38, 73~. While this problem is not unique to Oregon, the state has been less able than others to play "catch-up" between periods of retrenchment, resulting in a falling national rank in the area of faculty salaries as well as appropriations per capita for higher education. In 1988 the University of Oregon ranked 90th out of 111 doctoral-granting institutions in faculty salaries |76~; by 1990 it was 111th out of 121 |78~. Between 1978 and 1990, the state fell from 17th to 34th nationally in per capita support of higher education. Nevertheless, successful efforts have been made by both public officials and the private sector to provide extra support for specific "targeted" academic fields at the University of Oregon. Disciplines receiving greatest support from these supplemental sources are the "high technology" fields of the physical sciences, computer science, and business. This targeted support has had a positive impact. In some fields, the disparity between the University of Oregon's faculty salaries and those at other public research universities has diminished, while in others the salary gap between University of Oregon and national faculty has grown |33, 77~.
Published and unpublished reports have documented the nature and consequences of faculty salary patterns at the University of Oregon. During the early 1980s, faculty responded to a survey on their departure from the university by citing low faculty salaries as the chief cause of their job changes |40~. In that study, "quality of faculty" was identified as a major reason for desire to remain at the University of Oregon. Another study |12~ showed that between 1977 and 1986, faculty salary gains in Oregon's four-year colleges and universities fell 25 percent behind the rate of inflation. Dissatisfaction with salaries, institutional facilities, research support, and relations with the central administration have all been associated with thus far unsuccessful campaigns among University of Oregon faculty to unionize |37, 38, 101~.
Late in 1989, following a change in administration, the University of Oregon's new president introduced a strategic planning process to the university community. Among seven campuswide task forces formed in early spring 1990 was the Faculty Recruitment and Retention Task Force, of which the first author served as a member from April 1990 to June 1991. The task force was charged with investigating faculty employment and compensation issues occurring both locally and across the nation and reporting its findings and recommendations to the campus community. In fall 1990, the task force distributed a faculty job satisfaction questionnaire to all academic-rank personnel. Previously published studies of faculty job satisfaction |48, 49, 74~ guided development of the written questionnaire, an earlier version of which was initially pilot-tested on twenty-eight faculty by one of the authors during winter 1990. Portions of the task force survey were modeled after the NCES national survey of postsecondary faculty |69~. Both the pilot and task force versions of the questionnaire covered faculty demographic characteristics, job satisfaction and dissatisfaction indicators, and self-report indicators of the likelihood of retirements or job changes.
Late in October 1990, task force questionnaires were mailed to all faculty-rank employees at the university who held full-time teaching duties (n = 860) as well as individuals with faculty rank who held part-time and non-teaching positions (n = 240). Survey returns were collected only until Election Day in early November. On that day Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 5, a statewide property-tax limitation measure that was widely expected, if passed, to have severe negative consequences for the future of higher education funding in the state. In cutting off collections of completed surveys on Election Day, the Task Force assumed that questionnaires mailed in post-election days were completed after the election results were known. In the interest of not skewing survey results with post-election opinions, these last returns were not included in the subsequent data analysis.
Findings from the Faculty Recruitment and Retention Survey(1)
In the following tables, we highlight our findings from the task force survey. Table 1 displays general information on the 860 University of Oregon teaching faculty who were mailed questionnaires, based on rank, gender, tenure status, and academic division within the university. Because of the small proportion -- under 10 percent -- of faculty of color employed at the University of Oregon when this survey was conducted, ethnicity of faculty was not identified either in the original sample or among respondents in order to guarantee anonymity. It is clear from this table that variations exist within different academic divisions at the University of Oregon in proportions of faculty who are males and females, tenured and nontenured, and at various ranks. Among surveyed teaching faculty nearly 72 percent were males and 28 percent were females. When rank is examined, males substantially outnumber females among tenured faculty in most fields, while assistant professors come closest to gender parity. Table 1 shows that women are most prevalent among the junior faculty at the University of Oregon.
In table 2, data are provided on response rates of teaching faculty based on rank, gender, tenure status, and division. From the faculty surveyed, 390 completed responses were returned -- an overall response rate of 45.3 percent. Among the respondents, 270 were males (69 percent of all survey respondents) and 120 were females (31 percent of respondents). Because women make up only 28 percent of all faculty surveyed, this means that University of Oregon female faculty were slightly overrepresented and males underrepresented among respondents. Responses TABULAR DATA OMITTED among females at all academic ranks (instructor through professor) were generally higher than for males, resulting in campuswide response rates of 48.0 percent for all female faculty, 54.8 percent for tenured females, 44.3 percent for all male faculty, and 45.5 percent for tenured males. Response rates by all categories of rank and tenure status were at or above 41 percent.
Table 2 also shows that response rates by academic field range from a low of 29.6 percent in journalism to a high of 55.1 percent in business administration, though response rates in most divisions were within five percentage points of the campuswide average of 45.3 percent. The University of Oregon's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) contains the divisions of arts and letters, sciences, and social sciences, and these divisions netted response rates of 43.1 percent, 47.3 percent, and 49.6 percent, respectively. Faculty in human development and performance (including the departments of dance, physical education, human services, leisure studies, and school and community health) responded at a rate of 50 percent, while faculty in architecture and allied arts (including the departments of art history, art education, landscape architecture, architecture, and fine arts) participated at a lower 43.7 percent rate. The College of Education (ED), which contained the divisions of teacher education, counseling and educational psychology, educational policy and management, and special education when the survey was administered, netted a 43.9 percent response rate.
TABLE 2 Response Rates of Faculty by Academic Division, Rank, Gender, and Tenure Status (N = 390) Faculty Response Academic Division Surveyed Responses Rate (%) Arts & letters 167 72 43.1 Sciences 169 80 47.3 Social sciences 121 60 49.6 Architecture & allied arts 87 38 43.7 Business admin. 49 27 55.1 Education 98 43 43.9 Human dvlpmt & perform. 64 32 50.0 Journalism 27 8 29.6 Law 30 12 40.0 Music 48 18 37.5 Total 860 390 45.3 Response Response Academic Rank Males Rate (%) Females Rate (%) Professors 120 45.5 17 53.1 Associate professors 74 45.7 40 55.6 Assistant professors 58 41.1 48 41.0 Instructors 18 41.9 15 51.7 Tenure Status Tenured 194 45.5 57 54.8 Non-Tenured 76 45.7 63 43.2 Total 270 44.3 120 48.0
Indicators of Faculty Morale and Job Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction
In table 3, we summarize the responses of instructional faculty to questions regarding satisfaction or dissatisfaction with various dimensions of their jobs, working conditions, and compensation. A total of 34 indicators of job satisfaction were examined using a four-point Likert TABULAR DATA OMITTED evaluation scale. Results listed in table 3 reflect proportions of respondents indicating opinions of "very dissatisfied" and "very satisfied."
In order to determine the degrees of campuswide satisfaction and dissatisfaction that exist with each of the 34 indicators, we developed a ratio scale which appears in the final column of table 3.(2) To get this ratio, we divided the percentage of "very dissatisfied" respondents by the percentage of "very satisfied" for each indicator. Thus, a ratio greater than 1.0 suggests that faculty respondents, as a group, were more dissatisfied than satisfied with the indicator when they completed the survey, whereas a ratio of less than 1.0 suggests greater satisfaction than dissatisfaction with that indicator.
From table 3, it is clear that faculty at the University of Oregon are most satisfied with such things as the quality of their colleagues, the University's geographic location, opportunities for involvement in campus governance, authority on the job, benefits, freedom to do work outside the University, and the institution's reputation. Faculty are most dissatisfied with their salaries, availability of research assistants, and support services. High dissatisfaction also exists with the process of determining salaries and raises, the quality of research facilities and support, time available for research, and the quality of the central administration.
From many indicators, female respondents demonstrated less satisfaction than their male colleagues. Table 4 presents indicators for female and male teaching faculty at the University of Oregon for which the differences in satisfaction based on gender were statistically significant (p = |is less than or equal to~ 0.05). A total of 17 indicators reflected significant differences in levels of satisfaction for all faculty based on gender, as the left half of table 4 demonstrates. For each indicator, the proportions of male and female faculty who were "very dissatisfied" are listed. Indicators such as "job security," "collegiality," "my role relative to the University's mission," "process for determining promotions," and "time required for student advising" showed substantially higher levels of dissatisfaction among female faculty. Although all faculty were especially dissatisfied with their salaries, the process for determining salary raises, availability of research assistants, and quality of research facilities and support, the proportions of "very dissatisfied" women exceeded men in each of these areas. Notably, "quality of undergraduates" was the only indicator with which smaller proportions of women than men were "very dissatisfied."
In our analysis, we also compared opinions of male and female assistant professors, which appear in the right columns of table 4. Among assistant professor respondents, only 4 indicators of job satisfaction showed significant differences based on gender. These were salary, job security, TABULAR DATA OMITTED the process of promotions, and "my role relative to the University's mission." Therefore, rank is an important consideration in this study when the levels of dissatisfaction among males and females are compared for individual indicators.
Differences in Salary and Job Satisfaction across Academic Fields
One of the most striking findings from the 1990 University of Oregon survey is the disparity that exists among faculty in different academic fields when both salary and individual indicators of job satisfaction are examined. Table 5 lists survey respondents' salary earnings in different divisions of the University of Oregon, while table 6 lists respondents' levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction for selected indicators, based on their academic divisions of employment and on annual salary earned. The academic fields listed in these two tables include arts and letters (A&L), sciences (SCI), social sciences (SOC), architecture and allied arts (AAA), business (CBA), education (ED), and human development and performance (HDP).
Among the notable findings from table 5 and table 6 is that fields in which smaller proportions of faculty respondents earn $40,000 or above (that is, arts and letters, human development and performance, architecture and allied arts) tend to have larger proportions of faculty dissatisfied with their salaries. Using tests of significance, the indicators of "time available for research," "salary," "process of raises," "quality of research facilities," and "availability of research assistants" met the criterion of p = |is less than or equal to~ 0.05 when levels of satisfaction were compared on the basis of academic field, and 3 of the indicators -- "salary," "process of raises," and "time for research" -- were significant when compared on the basis of salary earned across fields. These tables (especially when compared with academic rank information supplied in table 1) suggest that significant resource inequities exist within the University of Oregon in terms of salaries paid to faculty, and these inequities are related to differential levels of job dissatisfaction among faculty on the basis of academic field.
Many faculty commented, either on their surveys or through subsequent interviews and anecdotal feedback we obtained, on the issue of resource inequities. Reactions like these were common:
I would urge the faculty to prevent the current administration from exercising authority with respect to current salaries and salary raises. Recent salary decisions by the Provost's office have done more to undermine morale in my department than anything else in recent years. Now salary inequities are larger than ever and traditional causes for merit (publication, service, teaching) TABULAR DATA OMITTED TABULAR DATA OMITTED are largely ignored by the administration, while the department tries desperately to make up for inequities with inadequate resources.
Take care of gross inequities and compression, raise bottom level salaries.... I think it's ridiculous that someone working here 10 years couldn't afford to send a child to the University.
The most severe problem is the creation of inequities through administrative action, mostly to favor some units over others. The gaps are far greater than national averages and, hence, do not reflect market forces. The administration is deeply committed to discriminatory treatment of units, and this must change before anything else can.... Address the deep gap between the two universities, the rich and the poor, in terms of facilities, etc.
The pecking order between disciplines has been, not so slowly, destroying the collegiality that this institution was once known for.
Given the mess the administration makes of judging merit and equity or paying new hires and forgetting old ones, I think we need a salary schedule and probably a union.
U of O was my top choice on the job market over Emory, Utah, Loyola -- I was thrilled about coming here. Since my arrival I have been increasingly demoralized by the obvious preference this university shows for "hard" sciences, the inequity of resource distribution, the lackadaisical commitment to humanistic values. Again, this may not be OVERT sexual discrimination, but given the traditional dearth of women in sciences, and the increasing concentration of women in humanities, it is surely de facto sexual discrimination to make us beg for pennies. If anything's going to make me go on the job market next year or the year after, it will be this very issue of pathetic funding for humanities (and GTFs in humanities) to the benefit of the hard sciences.
When these comments and data reflecting disparities in job satisfaction are considered, one conclusion is immediate: low faculty morale at the University of Oregon is associated with the perception that serious resource inequities exist among individual departments. Many faculty participants commented disparagingly about the existence of "two tiers" at the university and how the administration was widening the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots." Some were troubled by an apparent lack of sensitivity on the part of the university administration to the plight of faculty. Said one associate professor:
In my opinion, both the President and Senior Vice President have not attempted to understand the culture of this university, or if they have, they have failed. It is much easier for the faculty to deal with a less than ideal salary scale, etc., if they perceive the higher administration as caring and as 'one of them'. This is clearly not the case at present and represents a major problem here. Unless the higher administration gets a better grip on, and shows greater respect for the institution, the faculty loyalty that has allowed the U of O to survive bad times in the past will erode very quickly.
Faculty's perception of differences in the University of Oregon administration's treatment of "have" and "have-not" disciplines were realized in spring 1990, when the campus administration made a decision to discontinue the American Studies program because of "insufficient funding" for the following academic year |3~. This program was conceived by a cross-section of Oregon's faculty just a few years earlier as a unique experiment in encouraging an interdisciplinary and multicultural focus on learning |67~. Ironically, just one week after the decision to discontinue the program, the university's College of Business Administration announced the appointment of nine faculty members to "distinguished" positions worth over $4 million |16~.
Surveyed Oregon faculty were also asked to indicate the likelihood that they would retire or seek employment elsewhere during the next three years. Table 7 displays responses given by faculty participants in the task force study. Roughly 10 percent of respondents indicated at least some likelihood of retiring in the next three years, while a much TABULAR DATA OMITTED higher proportion indicated they might seek other jobs in the near future. Among all teaching faculty respondents, over 50 percent of task force survey participants suggested some likelihood of a new job search -- a finding which matched that of the earlier pilot-tested University of Oregon survey. Even higher proportions of instructors (59 percent) and assistant professors (63 percent) indicated to the task force that they were "somewhat" or "very likely" to look for new positions. Table 7 also indicates likelihood of departure on the basis of gender and field of employment. In most fields, higher proportions of women than men gave a response of "very likely."
We have termed "at-risk" faculty all those respondents who marked "very likely" to the survey question about searching for employment elsewhere. This group is arguably least satisfied with conditions at the University of Oregon. It should be noted, however, that faculty responded only to a question regarding likelihood of departing the university, and this question is not necessarily an accurate predictor of the numbers of faculty who actually will take jobs elsewhere in future years. Therefore, the at-risk faculty should be viewed principally as representing those individuals who feel the least allegiance to the University of Oregon.
At-risk faculty in the Oregon study were most prevalent among junior faculty, those employed for seven years or less at the University of Oregon, and in disciplines containing smaller numbers of respondents earning over $40,000 per year. As can be seen from the salary listings in table 7, the proportions of "at-risk" faculty generally decline as salary levels increase. At-risk faculty were also more likely to be women (nearly 29 percent of all female respondents) than men (less than 17 percent of male respondents), and, in fact, gender is a significant predictor (p = |is less than or equal to~ 0.05) of which faculty are likely to be at-risk. The proportional gender differences are caused by the larger percentages of all females who are found among Oregon's junior faculty ranks -- ranks that also contain the highest total proportions of at-risk faculty across campus. But even within ranks, women are more at-risk than men. For example, among assistant professors, 19 percent of males and 25 percent of females are at risk. The fields with highest percentages of at-risk faculty include arts and letters, social sciences, education, music, and human development and performance, whereas the fields with lowest percentages of at-risk faculty (and highest proportions of males) include business, the sciences, and law.
Among the issues most often indicated by Oregon's at-risk faculty were concerns about receiving higher salaries, greater research support and opportunities, lighter teaching and administrative responsibilities, and more job security. When the 34 satisfaction indicators were tested for significance in relationship to likelihood of faculty departure, only 9 indicators did not meet the criterion of p = |is less than or equal to~ 0.05. They included "class size," "support services," "access to mainframe computers," "access to microcomputers," "faculty quality" "interdepartmental cooperation," "collegiality," "quality of undergraduates," and "undergraduate curriculum." For all others, high dissatisfaction was correlated with indications of higher likelihood of faculty departure from the University of Oregon. Faculty comments regarding their likelihood of departure included these:
For me, salary is much less important than other issues -- teaching load, class size, time off for research. The women in particular are overloaded with student advising, committee responsibilities and dissertations. It is virtually impossible for us to do our own research. I predict that unless something changes the women junior faculty will start leaving the U of O.
I have had three unsolicited invitations to apply for positions, including one chairmanship, in the last several years and am considering one unsolicited invitation now. Oregon needs to do something soon; its current 'more for less' philosophy is not viable in the current academic marketplace.
Comparisons between University of Oregon and National Public Research University Faculty
The data from University of Oregon survey respondents are particularly striking when compared to similar national studies.(3) The U.S. Department of Education's national faculty survey, distributed in 1987-88 |69~, provides one basis of comparison. Table 8 lists ratings by University of Oregon and national public research faculty for 22 of 34 jobs satisfaction variables contained in the Oregon survey and identified in table 3. The 22 variables were chosen because they were the only ones listed in the national survey with titles sufficiently similar to those in the Oregon survey to merit comparison. Because the national study reported findings based on percentages of faculty indicating they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" (based on a four-point Likert scale), we combined "very satisfied" respondents with faculty who indicated they were "satisfied" for each variable in the Oregon study, which was also based on a four-point scale.
Table 8 demonstrates that among University of Oregon faculty surveyed, dissatisfaction is higher than among national faculty with all job indicators except employee "benefits" and the "quality of faculty," and for many indicators the differences are substantial. For example, while 65.3 percent of public research university faculty are satisfied with the quality of research facilities and support at their institutions, only 24.5 percent of Oregon's faculty are also satisfied. Similar wide disparities exist between national and Oregon faculty in the areas of salary (60 percent vs. 20.6 percent are satisfied), support services (61.5 percent vs. 27 percent), and availability of research assistants (59.7 percent vs. 25.3 percent). TABULAR DATA OMITTED Many areas of greatest differences between Oregon's faculty and their national colleagues are in resource-based indicators, suggesting that poor availability of resources at the University of Oregon has a direct impact on many aspects of faculty job satisfaction.
Changes in Oregon Faculty Opinions between the 1970s and 1990s
Just as the adequacy of funding for the University of Oregon has shown little improvement since the early 1970s |61~, faculty satisfaction levels have also deteriorated in many areas. Table 9 displays job satisfaction indicators measured by Feuille and Blandin in 1972 |37, 38~ that were examined again in 1990 by the Faculty Recruitment and Retention Task Force. During the past two decades, satisfaction among University of Oregon faculty has declined in the areas of salaries, teaching load, TABULAR DATA OMITTED support services, quality of facilities, and relations between faculty and the University administration. Only the items of benefits and the process of determining salary increases showed a measurable increases in satisfaction levels, with the former being the only one displaying substantial improvement.
Impact of the 1991 Budget Cuts at the University of Oregon
In January 1991, senior administrators at the University of Oregon announced their response to the passage of Ballot Measure 5, the statewide property tax limitation measure, by Oregon voters in 1990. Mandated by Oregon's governor and higher education chancellor to reduce the budget by 10 percent |83~, University of Oregon administrators announced their recommendations eleven days after promulgating criteria for determining program reductions and eliminations. Principal criteria for the decisions included:
1. Eliminate programs that do not meet the standards of a leading research university |e.g. quality of the program relative to similar programs at other AAU institutions; contribution of the program to the 'excellence of the University'~, if resources are not available to bring them to acceptable levels of quality; and 2. eliminate or reduce programs that are not central to campus mission.
Additionally, the administration emphasized "current and projected enrollment for academic programs, as well as the demand for graduates who specialize in this area" as criteria influencing their decisions (memorandum to the faculty of 17 January 1991).
Among the 1991 program cuts proposed by the administration were elimination of the entire College of Human Development and Performance (HDP), including the departments of school and community health, human services, physical education, and gerontology; closure of a large portion of the College of Education -- including the programs in curriculum and instruction, primary and secondary teacher education -- and "reorganization" of the programs in educational and counseling psychology; closure of the department of speech; and reorganization of programs in classics, religious studies, dance, leisure studies and services, human movement science, journalism, and art education. In all, almost 200 academic positions were proposed for elimination by July 1992, including 17 administrators, 29 faculty with fixed-term appointments in departments that would be closed, 20 faculty with tenure-track appointments, and 110 to 125 fixed-term faculty members and graduate teaching fellows in programs that were not targeted for other cutbacks |82~. When tenured faculty positions were cut because of departmental closings, it was stated that tenured professors would be "reassigned" to surviving departments at the University of Oregon or at one of the other seven Oregon State System of Higher Education (OSSHE) institutions |66~.
According to a report released by the OSSHE Office of Academic Affairs in January 1992 |79~, the University of Oregon cutbacks of 1991 had a disproportionate impact on women faculty and students, because most cut programs were in fields that served and employed the largest proportions of females. After the cuts, women's percentage of faculty employed in tenured/tenure track ranks at the University of Oregon fell from 27.0 percent to 24.6 percent. In the cut programs, 76 percent of enrolled students were females, while only 52 percent of all students were women.
For faculty members employed in or near the departments receiving the cuts, the shock was devastating |94~. Because the timing of the cuts coincided with the beginning of the 1991 Gulf war, references to "scud missile attacks," "direct hits" and "near misses," and "surgical strikes" were common in campus discussions. Although the Faculty Recruitment and Retention Task Force was unable to survey faculty again following the announcement of program cuts, anecdotal feedback from numerous faculty strongly suggested that morale and job security had plummeted. In April 1991 an article published in the Eugene Register-Guard summed up the results, "Cuts Trigger Faculty Flight: For Many, Measure 5 Enhances Attraction of Outside Offers" |28~, and focused on rumors of large numbers of faculty departing by the end of 1991.
Because final statistics on numbers of faculty who actually left the state as a result of the 1991 cuts were unavailable, we conducted follow-up interviews with a number of professors who departed and with some who remained. The following quotes are typical of faculty who accepted positions at other universities:
I'm still not recovered. My family bought a home in Eugene and we expected to raise our children there. We had worked hard for several years on a major revision of our program and we were all very excited about putting our ideas into practice. Instead, I had to take what I could find. I had to abandon my students. It still hurts to come back here and know what could have been.
I've had four doctoral students finish in the last 3 weeks. Their work was good but what I am most angry about is that the university made them hurry, and I had to leave, and now they'll probably never know how much better their work could have been. Instead, they don't feel very good, and I know they were cheated.
The administration said it was all "fair," but you can ask any of us who were told our program was cut because we weren't "good enough" for Oregon how "fair" it was. They cut programs ranked in the top 10 in the world, and kept other programs that don't rank in the top 50, and then had the gall to say it was a "quality" question. The result was that women and minority students are out, and so are programs that help people. How "fair" is that?
The state I'm in has budget problems, too. Because I didn't get to finish tenure track at Oregon, I'm still junior here, too, and may get caught in these cuts as well. After working all these years to be faculty, I see my dreams being torn away. It makes me angry. It makes me sad that the people of this country don't seem to understand or care about what they are destroying.
Faculty who remained in Oregon voiced parallel concerns:
I've never seen morale so low. I try to work at home as much as possible so I don't have to deal with the cut rumors of the day. It would be ridiculous if the rumors weren't so often true.
I didn't think much of the programs that were cut last year, so I didn't think it meant much overall. Now, this year they took my travel and the secretaries and the paper budget. How am I supposed to teach without paper? How am I supposed to stay professional if I can't get to my colleagues? This is like a war zone and we are ground zero.
Nobody knows what will happen next. I hate to pick the paper up each morning, wondering who got it this time. And I have to beg for everything, every nickel, every dime. And who knows what tomorrow will bring?
I got to stay because I am a minority. I'm supposed to feel grateful. All my colleagues are gone. All my students are hurt. I'm in a new department. I'm supposed to feel grateful because I'll probably be protected in this year's cuts, too. But grateful just isn't in the cards. I use this place just like it uses me. But, I'm not grateful.
It really hit me a few weeks ago when I couldn't find a class for a student because all the programs and faculty are gone. We used to be able to put together a pretty good cross-departmental package on working with adults. No more. This place says it cares about teaching and quality, but this has been a real shock.
Although the full impact of Ballot Measure 5 on faculty morale and job satisfaction at the University of Oregon may not be known for years to come, one fact is already clear from the cuts carried out in 1991: faculty in the "have-not" sectors of the University were more vulnerable to cuts than those in the "have" sectors. Programs cut at the University of Oregon in 1991 were predominantly in the areas of human services, physical education, community health, and teacher education. In 1992, OSSHE institutions were forced to prepare for a second round of budget cuts after Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts' attempt to win support for an alternate tax plan was thwarted by the Republican-led state House of Representatives in early summer |75, 85~. Administrators faced the daunting task of planning reductions of 20 percent more for 1993, further undermining faculty morale at the institution |26, 100~.
Conclusions: Implications for Faculty and American Public Higher Education
The findings obtained in this study suggest that the inadequacy of financial resources has negatively affected faculty morale, collegiality, and allegiance to the University of Oregon. This lack of adequate resources is the result of two basic factors: (1) a history of chronic neglect by the Oregon legislature punctuated by spells of budgetary cutbacks and retrenchment, which has contributed to institutional financial malnutrition; and (2) inequities created within the institution, that is, among various academic fields, as a result of shifting administrative funding priorities. Though declines in collective faculty morale at the University of Oregon should be seen as primarily rooted in the first of these factors, many individual faculty opinions resulting from felt inequity (particularly among the "have-not" disciplines) are more likely caused by the second.
This case study has added dramatic evidence to the findings of Bowen and Schuster |14, 90, 91~ that conditions for American professors have deteriorated in recent decades. It has demonstrated that severe economic retrenchment affects all faculty and has specific implications by discipline area, by rank and tenure status, and by sex |43, 64~. But Oregon's fiscal difficulties, although more extreme than in some other states, demonstrate the dilemma facing faculty nationally -- resource availability that is both inadequate and (in many disciplines) undergoing significant changes in its point of origin, and diminishing job security. Many of the critical changes affecting Oregon's faculty and academic institutions are also being felt across the rest of the nation as well |53, 55, 72~.
Particularly in public universities that have a strong liberal arts curricular focus, faculty morale may decline as divisions grow between the relatively well-funded programs and poorly funded programs, that is, between the "have" sector and the "have-not" disciplines. While faculty positions in some disciplines will remain relatively secure, others will be vulnerable to programmatic budget cuts in departments which, although deemed "weak" by administrators, are extremely popular with faculty and students and may even hold national rankings. Under such a scenario, individuals most directly affected by cuts can become politicized and may seek to alter the decision-making powers of academic administrators. Equally possible is a new period of faculty unionization efforts on campuses that have historically eluded collective bargaining.
This study has also shown that female faculty at the University of Oregon are in many ways feeling the negative impact of the institution's fiscal crisis more severely than are male faculty, both in terms of positions cut during periods of retrenchment and in terms of job satisfaction and morale. This finding is consistent with reports which show that females may be bearing the brunt of budget cuts at many of America's academic institutions |64~. Budget cuts which reduce the relative proportion of females among tenure-track faculty at the University of Oregon and other public universities may be at least in part a product of what Faludi |35~ has described as a backlash within American society against many of the gains accomplished by women in the past two decades. Though seemingly unintentional, cutback decisions that eliminate disproportionate numbers of female faculty positions may alienate large numbers of women professors and students and heighten the desire of junior female faculty members to seek employment in "greener pastures."
During times of financial distress and deteriorating quality of work-life, a community of professors at an academic institution typically manifests many of the same characteristics as any other social community undergoing similar strains: heightened stress, declining morale, lowered productivity, and deteriorating mental and physical health. The climate created at an institution in which such strains are prevalent is relatively unfavorable to optimum career and personal development of both faculty and graduate students aspiring to future faculty careers. As working relationships continue to deteriorate, individual faculty will be more inclined to depart their jobs when positions become available at other institutions, and the impact on those faculty and graduate students "left behind" can be one of demoralization and emotional isolation.
As the year 1991 began, Robert Atwell, president of the American Council on Education, was interviewed about his views of the current challenges facing American higher education |102~. "A year ago, I talked hopefully about a peace dividend," he said. "It has long since been spent in the Middle East and in bailing out our savings and loans. It's been at least 10 years since I've heard college presidents talk in such despondent tones about the retrenchment they are enduring or facing."
The fiscal strains affecting much of America's public academic institutions in recent times can best be understood as occurring within a larger context of shifting political and economic forces shaping American society. It is widely recognized that Ronald Reagan's election to the U.S. Presidency in 1980 signaled the beginning of a new conservative era in postwar American politics that continued with the election of George Bush in 1988 |30, 31, 36, 46, 86~. The resulting period of skyrocketing federal budget deficits and significant changes in the nature of private sector economic development |30, 39, 60, 81, 86~ has been recognized by many historical writers as a sign that America's extraordinary period of global economic and political hegemony is coming to an end |25, 44, 56, 57, 65, 89~. Under his "new federalism" philosophy, Reagan succeeded in shifting much of the public spending burden for non-defense purposes onto state governments |19~. The result: growing inequality between the "haves" and "have-nots" within American society -- a larger tax burden for low-income Americans, a massive tax-cut for the wealthy, and widening gaps between rich and poor states |80, 81~.
The economic crisis facing public higher education is rooted in these changes in the structure of American capitalism and the larger political economy -- changes that actually began during the 1970s |10~. In part, public academic institutions are experiencing the same circumstances as are other public sector organizations in America today -- declining revenues, shifting government priorities, and a citizenry unwilling to pay the higher taxes needed to match rising public sector costs.
As Slaughter |95, 96, 97~ and Slaughter and Silva |98~ argue, American public higher education generally has become more closely tied to economic objectives as well as managerial tactics of state governments and the corporate sector of the American economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The production of knowledge in public research universities serves many interests but tends to conform to the adage, "the one who pays the piper gets to call the tune." Because of the growing influence of corporate and other private interests in the funding and policy-making aspects of American higher education |34, 68, 71~, public universities' missions have shifted increasingly toward serving technocratic, economic, and private research interests and away from "public interest" educational objectives such as community service and an emphasis on quality undergraduate teaching |6, 87, 88~. Just as institutions' missions are shaped by their funding priorities, so will be their future strategies for attracting and retaining faculty while managing shrinking resource bases. More attention to such areas as early retirement incentives, sophisticated salary schedule plans, and pursuit of alternate funding sources are likely in the years ahead |13, 41, 62, 63~.
While we recognize that the 1990s will likely remain an era of federal and state fiscal austerity and economic uncertainty, we believe the end of the Cold War and recent election of a new Democratic president present a golden opportunity for government and academic policymakers and the American public to fundamentally reexamine the structure, functions, and funding of America's public academic institutions. Stronger partnerships and cooperation among the various sectors of public education in the United States (K-12, community colleges, 4-year institutions, and their respective governing and coordinating bodies) are urgently needed if the higher education system is to emerge from its current funding crisis stronger and better able to serve the educational needs of American citizens into the twenty-first century. For as historian Paul Kennedy has argued, "If the U.S. wishes to recover its 'reputation,' it might begin by repairing its inner cities, public education, crumbling infrastructure and multiple social needs" |57~. Now is the best time for building and expanding these cooperative partnerships and renewing public dialogue about the mission and purpose of higher education in American society.
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|Title Annotation:||higher education|
|Author:||Kerlin, Scott P.; Dunlap, Diane M.|
|Publication:||Journal of Higher Education|
|Date:||May 1, 1993|
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