As part of a larger effort to improve recruitment and retention rates, Penn is looking to its faculty for guidance.
The University is currently inviting standing faculty members to participate in its first-ever faculty climate survey.
The extensive survey was distributed in mid-November and will be available for about a month, Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Lees said.
The results of the questionnaire, which will be reviewed by the Office of Institutional Research, the Faculty Senate and various administrators, will help Penn “recruit and retain excellent faculty,” Lees said.
The survey addresses topics such as equity in opportunity among faculty, quality of mentorship, sabbatical opportunities, the tenure system and resources for teaching and research, according to Lees and Communication professor Robert Hornik, a former chair of the Faculty Senate.
These are issues that “reflect concerns expressed by Senate committees,” Hornik wrote in an email.
The Faculty Senate, which helped design the survey, includes all standing faculty and clinician-educators throughout Penn’s 12 schools. It corresponds regularly with President Amy Gutmann, Provost Vincent Price, deans, other administrators and representatives of constituency groups on campus. Together, they submit policy proposals for consideration by the Board of Trustees.
The survey asks about the Faculty Diversity Action Plan, which was released by Gutmann and Price this summer. The plan pledged $100 million over the next five years toward faculty recruitment and retention. It also requires each school to appoint a diversity officer to increase faculty diversity within their schools. So far, only the School of Design, the Annenberg School of Communication and the School of Nursing have appointed their officers.
Assistant professor of the History and Sociology of Science Projit Mukharji said the survey was “intelligently designed” in regard to faculty diversity.
“It first asked if your department is diverse,” he said. “Then it asked how often you talk to someone of a different gender or sexual orientation.”
Hornik and Lees are hopeful the results will translate into policy decisions.
“There are many anecdotal reports both about concerns and about positive elements of the Penn environment for faculty,” Hornik wrote. “We are hoping the survey will allow us to see whether those perceptions are consistent across faculty.”
However, Mukharji said a top-down approach to policy making may not be enough. “Everybody is in favor of diversity these days, but it doesn’t get translated into action often,” he said.
He added that bottom-up engagement is also needed to “sensitize” the community toward minorities. “There has to be top-down policy making and bottom-up sensitizing.”
Lees added that the survey’s participation rate continues to increase every week and that the University will continue to encourage faculty to express their opinions.
The idea to implement a faculty survey came from “the same impulse to understand student opinion,” Lees said.
While Penn conducts numerous surveys on undergraduate and graduate student opinion, it will begin to better understand faculty experience, she added.
If the climate survey is successful after this year, it will continue to be administered on a regular basis, most likely every few years, Hornik wrote.
“It will be a particularly valuable tool if there are data over time so we can see whether faculty responses … are shifting,” Hornik wrote, adding that the long-term data will gauge the progress of improving policies or growing problems.
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