Officials plan to track faculty productivity

BY NINA EARNEST | APRIL 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials are designing a new survey to better track faculty productivity and improve communication with state officials.

Associate Provost for Faculty Tom Rice introduced the survey draft at a Faculty Council meeting Tuesday.

The survey includes categories for student instruction, student advising, scholarship, and clinical work.

“It’s a wonderful tool to express to the state and the legislators how faculty spend their time,” Rice said after the meeting, adding he and his counterparts at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa put together the draft to introduce to their individual faculty representatives.

The survey will request a random sample of faculty members to file productivity hours for one particular week.

The current system for marking activity only asks faculty where they spend time — such as in the office, at home, or at conferences — instead of what they are doing.

Officials publish numerical data about the hours faculty worked biannually in the Faculty Activity Report to the state Board of Regents, but Rice said he hoped to see the report published every year.

He also said officials wanted to include more quantitative data about professors’ working days to “make it real” for reviewers.

Jody Murph, an associate professor of pediatrics, voiced her support for the idea during the meeting.

“One of the most valuable things you can do is tell the story of the faculty member … to tell a story other than what the regents probably envision at this point,” she said.

In the fall, legislators asked university officials to similarly survey faculty members’ productivity while on sabbaticals. State officials had called the sabbaticals — time specified for faculty to conduct research or projects — into questions amid budget cuts.

Rice said the sabbatical survey turned out to be a boon for the administration and helped explain the need for professional leaves.

“The results were very useful for us in defending our productivity,” Rice said.

But Faculty Council member Jeffrey Cox, a history professor, said his concern is the message the survey sends.

“If you start treating faculty like factory workers instead of farmers, it may actually change the work,” he said.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he thinks these type of measures can aid education, but didn’t want the system to be used for micromanaging.

“That’s the fine line,” he said. “You want to have information to improve your education services. I don’t want to see it used for individual evaluations.”

But Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he thought such a survey would serve an important proactive measure.

“I think it’s a positive for accountability, to not only have proof of what they’re doing for legislators, but also for taxpayers and, really each other,” he said.

Rice said the new survey will not be implemented before next year.

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