Leadership for a Sustainable, Supportive Academic Community
Leadership takes many forms at the University of Toronto – we cultivate leadership skills in our students, we train our graduate and post-graduate students to become research leaders, we equip our faculty to become leaders in their fields of scholarship and pedagogy. There are also, of course, more formal structures of leadership, with Chairs and Deans appointed to lead our units and divisions, as well as those appointed to senior leadership positions such as Provost, Vice Presidents and the President. The COACHE survey assessed the satisfaction of tenure stream faculty with those in formal leadership positions. Academic leaders, especially the provost, deans and chairs, play a major role in shaping the satisfaction of faculty members with the University of Toronto as a workplace.
Across the cohort, COACHE found that faculty express the most satisfaction with leadership at the local level, with satisfaction declining as we move further away from the unit level. The results for U of T reflect a similar profile. When we look at the overall benchmarks that provide the mean results for all the questions included, we see that faculty indicate the most satisfaction at the local level with a mean score of 3.66, moving to 3.09 at the divisional level and senior (e.g. provostial and presidential) levels. In each case, we find that these scores place us below the mean for the cohort and often in the midst of our peers.
COACHE has found that faculty desire leadership from administration in four areas:
- A clearly articulated mission and vision for the institution,
- Clear expectations for teaching and research,
- A sense that faculty work is valued, and
- Consistent support for the academic mission.
In the remainder of this article, we look more closely at how tenure-stream faculty at the University of Toronto reported their satisfaction with these different aspects of leadership.
Clearly Articulated Mission and Vision
As with all the scores in this section, tenure-stream faculty express the most satisfaction with the stated priorities of their Chair, at 60%, slightly lower than our peers at 63.2%. This is followed by the Dean at 41.9% (peer 40.8%), the President at 35.9% (44.7%) and the Provost at 34.6% (peer 40.3%).
Faculty were slightly more satisfied with the abilities of these same leaders to communicate their priorities, with 61.5% (64.5% peers) indicating satisfaction with their Chair, 42.9% (41.1% peers) with their Dean, 36% (38.6% peers) with the Provost and 34.9% (45.5% peers) with the President.
Faculty commented that they wanted “more transparency” and a leadership that would “foster a sense of community in the departments”. There needed to be “better communication to faculty and wider consultation with faculty”.
“As leaders at the University, we have received a clear message that faculty are seeking a well-articulated vision for the University that is broadly and consistently communicated,” says Cheryl Regehr, vice president and provost. “We will seize this opportunity to improve communications and engage our faculty colleagues in helping shape the vision through wider and more frequent consultation”.
Clearly expressed expectations can be manifested in the sense that faculty feel they are fairly evaluated and that they have opportunities for input on matters of importance to the departments, divisions and the University. One faculty member asked for a “better mechanism for receiving and acting on the advice of the faculty rather than relying on top-down administrative committees that set and push academic priorities”.
Most faculty were satisfied with the fairness their Chair showed in evaluating their work (70.3%) and 61.9% were satisfied with opportunities to have input into departmental policy decisions. This dropped significantly, to 36.5% (37.5% for peers) when it came to having input about policy decisions at the divisional level. One faculty member wanted to “improve communications between senior administrators and faculty members – we know little of what is going on in Simcoe Hall – and seek more input from the rank and file into substantive decisions that affect faculty”.
“We heard from a number of divisions that the process of putting together workload policies was a real opportunity for faculty members to have input on a key policy that was going to affect their day to day working lives,” said Edith Hillan, vice provost Faculty & Academic Life. “It involved wide consultation amongst our colleagues and put in place measures to ensure fairness. This is the model we should use when we’re considering any kind of new policy or academic process”.
Work is Valued
As we saw in last week’s article, satisfaction for some faculty is related to appreciation and recognition for the work they do. Generally, faculty are satisfied with recognition at the local level but are less satisfied with the appreciation and recognition that they receive at the institutional level. Most divisions and units have awards to recognise faculty for outstanding teaching and research. Likewise, at the institutional level, there are a number of awards to recognize the long-lasting contributions that faculty make to education and discovery.
Consistent Support for the Academic Mission
Excellent research and teaching are at the very heart of our academic mission and institutional priorities. Consistent support for the University’s academic priorities from institutional leaders can be demonstrated in a number of ways – through programs and policies that support teaching and research; through processes that recognize and encourage excellence in teaching and research, and through clearly stated priorities that reinforce the academic mission.
Thirty five point three per cent of tenure-stream faculty said that they felt that institutional priorities were stated consistently across all levels of leadership. This exceeded the score of our peer institutions at 28.6%. This satisfaction declined slightly when faculty were asked whether they were satisfied that stated priorities were acted on consistently across all levels of leadership, with 29.5% expressing satisfaction; again, slightly higher than our peers at 24.4%. One faculty member commented that they wanted “…administrators who listen, contemplate, plan and have a noble, inclusive vision for a sustainable, supportive academic community”.
However, more than a third of our faculty (37%) reported that over the last five years institutional priorities had changed in ways that negatively affected their work. Those who responded that such changes had had a negative impact were then asked whether they had received sufficient support in adapting to these changes. Almost 50% indicated that they had received sufficient support from their Chair to manage the changing priorities of the institution, however only 17% indicated that this was the case for their divisional leadership. One faculty member wanted leadership with “a clear and well-founded vision of scholarship and research, with organizational capacities to lead and develop the institution forward, effectively and internationally, rather than just trying to cope with or clear up the problems that have built up over time”.
“Recent economic challenges and changing government mandates have created uncertainty,” says Regehr. “We are committed to working closely with deans, chairs and faculty members to maintain an academic environment where teaching and research can flourish.”
The COACHE survey was conducted in October of 2012 by the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Almost 50% of our tenured and pre-tenure faculty participated in this round (pre-tenure faculty had been invited to participate in 2007).
This month, we’ll be providing two further articles that look at the results on questions related to our policies and benefits and one that will look at the results by gender. In previous weeks we’ve discussed some overall results of the survey, department culture, tenure, promotion and mentoring, the nature of faculty work and appreciation, recognition, interdisciplinarity and collaboration.
Article: Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life
Graphics: NATIONAL Public Relations