Majority of UAA faculty members report decrease in morale, according to Faculty Senate survey

Of the 304 UAA faculty members who participated in a survey conducted by the UAA Faculty Senate this year, 202 of them reported a decline in morale over the past year, which is a two-thirds majority.

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The survey was conducted by Dr. Sharon Chamard, former president of the UAA Faculty Senate at the time of the survey, and associate professor in UAA’s Justice Center. Multiple demographics of UAA were represented to ensure accurate results, as faculty members holding different positions, as well as faculty members from each campus, participated in the survey.

The survey also highlighted potential correlations between morale and the workplace, as faculty morale seemed to parallel their discontent for the university’s lack of support for research, service, and administrative activities.

“Faculty who said they were extremely dissatisfied with the level of support for any of these things were much more likely to say their morale had declined a great deal in the past year,” Chamard reported in the survey notes.

Furthermore, those who reported a decrease in morale also generally expressed a lack of trust in UAA-wide leaders and university system leaders, while reporting to generally trust their department heads and deans more.

Faculty also reported feelings of not having influence over important decisions in their own colleges, at the UAA level, and at the university system level. Conversely, those who reported feelings of having such influence also reported that their morale had increased or stayed the same.

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Chamard’s survey also provided statistics addressing that faculty morale decreases were not associated with length of tenure or faculty rank, but more so dependent on: dissatisfaction with resources to support faculty, leadership performance, trust in university leaders, hours worked per week and a sense of lack of influence over important decisions at multiple levels.

While some of the nuances regarding reasons for morale decrease have changed, this year’s faculty morale survey is a stark contrast to the last survey done by the Faculty Senate in 2016, where a staggering 84 percent of 355 faculty participants reported a decrease in morale.

“Low levels of morale are typically associated with decreased productivity,” said Chamard when asked about the effects of morale decreases in the workplace. “It is a significant human resources issue when you have a lot of people who are unhappy at their job.”

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UAA’s Faculty Senate at their retreat in August at the Kenai River Campus.

These grievances are not going unheard of, as the Faculty Senate is working to address and improve these statistics through means such as their recent Faculty Senate retreat in August.

“Workplace morale is very important — whether it is the faculty, staff or students,” said current president of the UAA Faculty Senate, Maria Williams. “I think anytime there is a drop in morale, it should be taken seriously — not only by the faculty, but also by administration.”

Administration is indeed working towards this issue. “I do take these survey results seriously even though precipitating events (years of budget cuts, no salary increases and leadership turnover) occurred before I arrived,” said Chancellor Cathy Sandeen.

“My style is to be more open, transparent and communicative. I think the faculty are feeling the differences already. I’m also forming task forces to address issues like training and development and recognition and reward.”

Sandeen also mentioned efforts to fill interim positions as well as the UA system working to request salary increases in their budget proposal.

“All of this should help. I appreciate having survey results. It’s great input for guiding us as we move forward,” said Sandeen.