Faculty resignations up sharply at University of Iowa; down at ISU, UNI

Regents reviewing report on resignations, retention efforts

Vanessa Miller
Published: January 29 2014 | 10:45 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:49 am in

Faculty resignations at the University of Iowa increased 25 percent from the 2012 to 2013 budget year, while resignations at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa decreased.

The most recent resignation numbers, which have been provided to the Iowa Board of Regents in advance of their meeting next week, show that Iowa State’s 2013 total of 21 is well below its 10-year average of 37, while UNI’s 2013 total of 23 is above its 10-year average of 18.

Despite the UI resignation jump in the last budget year from 52 to 65, it’s holding steady with its 10-year average of 66.3, according to the regent report.

Each school has strategies in place to improve faculty retention, including focused efforts on competitive compensation, quality of life, and diversity. And when faculty members resign, university officials collect exit information through interviews and surveys and use that information to improve retention rates.

According to the new report, the most common reason UI faculty gave for resigning was to take a position at another university or go into private practice. At ISU, the primary reasons cited for leaving were “dissatisfaction with the workload, dissatisfaction with the department chair and dissatisfaction with pay.”

Because dissatisfaction around department chair continues to be a main reason cited by resigning ISU faculty – about 25 percent in 2013 said they were “somewhat or very dissatisfied” with their chair – ISU offers “professional development workshops” for department chairs.

The workshops cover topics like preparing promotion and tenure cases and conducting annual reviews, according to the report. They’re designed to help department chairs improve as managers and academic leaders.

Dawn Bratsch-Prince, ISU associate provost for faculty, said the university began offering the workshops once or twice a year about a decade ago. But ISU began making them available monthly two years ago, and Bratsch-Prince said those efforts – paired with new faculty mentoring programs – could be behind ISU’s drop in resignations.

“It’s at both ends of the spectrum,” Bratsch-Prince said. “You want there to be strong leadership, but providing them with a senior faculty member who can help them is equally important.”

According to the report, when ISU resigning faculty members were asked what would have encouraged them to stay, several said “recognition of my contributions” or “feeling appreciated.”

“These and other climate issues identified will need to be addressed by departmental leadership in the future,” according to the report.

ISU also had some departing faculty members cite salary as a reason for leaving, saying they accepted a position with “a much higher salary than the salary at ISU,” according to the report.

All three universities addressed compensation in some way in their list of faculty retention initiatives. The UI Office of the Provost, for example, reported working with colleges to “respond quickly with attractive counter-offers when productive faculty members receive offers from other institutions.”

At ISU, departments and colleges develop retention packages for faculty members looking to leave that might include salary adjustments, research support, partner accommodation and new work opportunities.

According to a separate regents report made public Tuesday, the estimated average faculty salary at all three regent universities in the current school year increased over the 2012-13 year. ISU – when compared with the other Iowa universities and its 10 peer schools – saw the biggest faculty salary increase at 3.2 percent.

UI faculty members saw an average salary increase of 2.1 percent, and UNI faculty saw a 2 percent increase in average salary among faculty members, according to the report. Despite the increases, however, all three universities lag behind their peer schools in average faculty salary.

At $104,500, only two UI peer schools had lower average faculty salaries, according to the report. ISU’s average faculty salary of $100,900 was higher than only three of its peer schools, and UNI’s average salary of $77,800 beat four peer schools.

“We make every effort to get our faculty salaries comparable to peer salaries,” Bratsch-Prince said. “We have good people and we want to keep them,”

For a period of time, the nation’s floundering economy and weakened job market meant fewer people were leaving for other job opportunities.

“Now that the economy is better, there is more competition among institutions,” she said. “And we are taking every effort to make sure our salaries are competitive.”

Diversity initiatives also can affect faculty retention, according to the regent report. The UI, for example, has several programs in place to retain diverse faculty members, including a campus-wide diversity training launched in 2011 to encourage campus leaders to participate in “prejudice-reduction work with the goal of increasing inclusion and equity among students, staff and faculty.”

“We focus on diversity in all of its manifestations,” said Georgina Dodge, UI chief diversity officer and associate vice president. “We are trying to recruit and retain people who have different perspectives and backgrounds to add value to our institution. That includes people with disabilities or veterans.”

A separate diversity report that will be presented to the Board of Regents next week shows overall progress at the three public universities in several areas, including women and minorities in faculty tenure-track positions.

Nearly 34 percent of those positions in 2013 were held by women, compared with 29 percent in 2003. And 21 percent of tenure-track faculty members in 2013 were minorities, compared with 15 percent a decade ago, according to the report.

UI and ISU in 2012 were close to their peer groups when comparing female and minority tenured and tenure-track faculty percentages. UNI was 3 percentage points above its peer group in female faculty and nearly 6 percentage points below its peers in minority faculty, according to the report.

Still, the report shows UNI has seen increases in both categories in the last 10 years. Female and minority representation has increased from 40 percent and 13 percent to 44 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

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