UTSA Campus Climate Survey Shows Dissension between Campus Leadership and Faculty

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Last fall UTSA launched a “Campus Climate” survey, the first of its kind at UTSA. This survey contains a long list of questions, seeking to open a line of communication between campus leadership and the faculty and staff. An impressive 56% of university staff responded to the survey request, providing a really reliable sample size as far as understanding the pulse of the folks who make UTSA such a special place.

UTSA engaged with a consulting company called ModernThink to administer this survey. ModernThink has worked with over 1,000 colleges and universities to perform various engagements including regular staff surveys like UTSA performed, as well as surveys following major events such as the selection of a new president, a major scandal, etc.

Overall, 65.3% of administrators, faculty, and staff responded positively to each statement on average, with 13% showing strong disagreement to the statements on average.

Across both the groups surveyed, any question related to resource availability scored poorly. Just 36.8% of faculty and staff members felt that they were paid fairly for their work, while 41% of respondents felt that their department is staffed highly enough to achieve the department’s goals.

While there was plenty of cause for concern in the survey results, it wasn’t all bad news for the UTSA administration.

On a positive note, just 3.7% of faculty and staff members thought that UTSA is handling the Covid-19 pandemic poorly. The survey respondents also provided high scores for questions surrounding diversity and inclusivity. Despite negative or lukewarm response rates on survey questions about campus leadership and management of the university, just 3.5% of respondents reported a lack of pride in being a part of the university. It’s clear there is staff buy-in to make UTSA a better place.

As part of UTSA’s engagement with ModernThink, a survey response comparison was provided. This chart compares average responses from UTSA faculty and staff against three different groups. Group A is all universities that ModernThink has engaged with who have an enrollment of over 10,000 students. Group B is all ModernThink clients who are categorized as Carnegie Doctoral Research Institutions. Lastly, Group C is a group of peer institutions selected by UTSA. UTSA’s peer models of excellence are as follows: Arizona State, FIU, George Mason University, Georgia State, Portland State, UC-Irvine, UC-Riverside, UC-Santa Cruz, UCF, and UMBC. These are all high research institutions located in major metropolitan areas, and the majority of them are Hispanic or minority serving universities.

Unfortunately, UTSA’s faculty and staff responded with less satisfactory answers than all three different benchmarking groups in 15 of 16 survey categories. The lone exception was the category to measure the faculty and staff’s satisfaction with their department chairs and supervisors.

I had previously mentioned a 65.3% satisfaction response average for UTSA. To compare that against the benchmarks, group A scored 79%, group B scored 71%, and group C scored 72%.

Relative to its peers, UTSA scored tremendously poorly in the “Shared Governance” category. Only 12.5% of survey respondents felt that the UTSA faculty and staff were meaningfully involved in institutional planning. Just 43% of faculty and staff agreed that “the role of staff in shared governance is clearly stated and publicized.” Most glaringly, just 36% of survey respondents indicated that the staff is appropriately involved in decisions related to administrative and operational matters such as curriculum policy development and evaluation. Clearly UTSA has its work cut out for it in making its faculty and staff feel like they have ownership of the direction of the university.

While UTSA lagged behind its peers in all categories, it was most competitive in the facilities category. The general high enrollment category greatly surpassed UTSA in this category, but Doctoral Research Institutions and UTSA’s peer selections only surpassed UTSA’s facility satisfaction rate by 4% and 3%, respectively.

UTSA was also on-pace in two other categories: overall job satisfaction and support, as well as the responses to custom survey questions. While I haven’t gone to look for other peer institutions’ custom questions, it appears all of UTSA’s custom statements were about UTSA’s identity as a Hispanic-serving institution. It’s great to see UTSA remain committed to its stated values and its goals as a higher learning entity, as well as to see the faculty and staff uphold those values.

These survey results should prove to be enlightening to President Eighmy. While UTSA isn’t surpassing its peers in many key areas, it is nearly equal in several of the most important categories such as facilities, institution pride, and respect for supervisors and department chairs. The areas where UTSA scored most poorly in also seem to be the areas that could be most easily fixed by communicating more openly with the faculty and staff, and engaging them early and often in regards to any administrative changes. Conducting this survey and taking its results to heart are the first step towards progress.

If you’d like to read more, the full survey results are available here: https://www.utsa.edu/inclusiveexcellence/programs/climatesurvey/2020-UTSA-Response-Distribution-Report.pdf

UTSA’s comparison against its benchmark institutions is available at this link: https://www.utsa.edu/inclusiveexcellence/programs/climatesurvey/2020-UTSA-Topline-Results-External-Institutions.pdf

Campus leadership and ModernThink will be hosting a virtual town hall next Friday to discuss the survey and its results. The live stream will be available here at 3 pm on October 22nd: https://www.utsa.edu/president/event/2021-10-22-campus-climate-survey-town-hall.html

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