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ISSUE 119 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/2/2005

Survey gauges job satisfaction, political views

By April Wright
Staff Writer

Friday, December 2, 2005

The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) Faculty Survey, made available on the St. Olaf website in early November, provided a wealth of data on the satisfaction, teaching style and demographics of St. Olaf professors. The survey addressed such issues as political views, academic careers and overall job satisfaction.

According to the HERI website, this year’s survey is the sixth of its kind to be conducted on a national level. The survey gathered data from "over 300,000 faculty at 1,100 two- and four-year colleges" throughout the country. St. Olaf has participated in the survey’s three most recent offerings.

The survey, which had a 45.6 percent response rate among St. Olaf professors, opens with a section on demographics.

One section gauged the political leanings of professors. Approximately 74.5 percent of respondents said they held left-leaning political views, with 12.1 percent identifying themselves as "far left," and the other 62.4 percent responding "liberal.”

A moderate political position was the second highest affiliation with 17.8 percent of respondents, and conservatives numbered 3.8 percent.

Some demographic data – that 46.5 percent of the faculty on campus is female, for example – is observable with the naked eye.

Other data, however, is not as obvious to students, who might be interested to know that 87.9 percent of respondents have been divorced, while 82.2 percent are currently married.

Some statistics, such as that 60 percent of professors responding to the survey hold a tenured position, may not be as interesting to the casual survey reader, but is important information when assessing staff satisfaction and institutional success by group.

The second section of the survey focused on the academic career of faculty. Of note is that 70 percent of respondents have a Ph.D., and that a majority of staff was hired between 2002 and 2004.

Also covered in this section is publication history. Approximately 80 percent of St. Olaf professors have had an article published in a scholarly journal; 60 percent have written a chapter in a book; slightly over half have authored a book, manual or study.

The teaching and philosophy sections illustrate how professors conduct class. For example, 68.2 percent of professors said they use class discussion in all of their classes, 58 percent said they do not grade on a curve and only 4.1 percent lecture extensively in every class they teach. The philosophy section of the survey showed that many professors see their teaching as a way to impart values of social responsibility and community service upon their students.

The fifth and sixth portions of the survey focus on job satisfaction. About 35 percent of professors teach 9-12 hours per week. In addition to teaching, the survey shows that prep work, research, student recitals, advising and work meetings also take up a sizeable amount of time. Despite the time involved, 75 percent of faculty said they get great joy from their work.

Later parts of the section, however, describe about 50 percent of faculty as "marginally satisfied" or "not satisfied" with their salary and benefits.

Overall, faculty indicated that they feel students have a good grasp of international issues, fine arts, theology, science, math, speaking and writing. Of the faculty and college itself, respondents have a positive view.

The majority of professors feel respected and appreciated by co-workers. The survey indicates that professors and administrators feel comfortable in their positions and satisfied with the abilities of their colleagues.

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