An Open Letter from FaST

The Faculty Survey Team (FaST) is an anonymous group of faculty members based in the Arts and Sciences College (ASC) of The Ohio State University. The ASC is the largest college in one of the largest public research universities in the USA. Anonymity protects our ability to pursue the FaST agenda (as detailed in our previous letters to the ASC faculty) without undue pressure from what many faculty view (see faculty comments in response to Q.4 of the Academic Wellness Survey) as an increasingly autocratic and coercive administration. Given the limited faculty participation in OSU governance – by which we mean real rather than nominal participation in academic decision-making – FaST surveys provide an alternative mechanism for determining and communicating faculty opinion on the crucial issues facing our university.

We believe that what FaST has produced is of considerable value because it establishes a clear and sometimes overwhelming faculty consensus on most of the issues raised to date, and that the actual membership of the team is immaterial. The voice that comes through in the Academic Wellness Survey is not that of the Survey Team members, but of the entire ASC Faculty body. It is worth noting that no ASC faculty member has questioned the authenticity of either the statistical results or the written comments collected by FaST following their release from our SurveyMonkey homepage. And for good reason. A cursory inspection of the complete document set associated with this survey (a document set that was downloaded and placed in the public domain immediately following the survey’s completion) makes it eminently clear that any sort of undetectable tampering with the final results would have been a nearly impossible undertaking.

The released documents were those internally generated by SurveyMonkey for an invitation-only survey. Moreover, respondents were encouraged to take a screenshot of their final response for submission, and most respondents included comments uniquely identifying their response from others in the complete set of responses.

In the interests of transparency (while still maintaining the anonymity of the participants), the following link will provide anyone so interested complete access to the internal survey documents associated with the survey, and residing on the SurveyMonkey website.

It seems that the only people inclined to question either the value or validity of this survey are a small minority of OSU administrators and faculty with a vested interest in the status quo. Given the results, we can understand their motivation for doing so. However, such a posture, if it persists, would suggest that the senior administration of OSU has no intention of responding in a meaningful or substantive way to the criticisms and concerns of the ASC faculty. We believe that this would be a grave error. The collective experience and wisdom of the ASC faculty is deserving of respect, and is a resource that ought to be valued and utilized by the OSU administration and the Board of Trustees, particularly when faculty input is characterized by very strong consensus.

We can contrast the openness of the FaST survey with those of the OSU administration. The entire OSU faculty are now required to complete a health and wellness survey annually if they do not wish to lose their health care coverage. The Faculty Culture Survey of two years ago asked many general ‘wellness’ questions about whether or not the faculty felt valued, well served by their supervisors and the senior administration, about their overall job satisfaction, etc. We note that the administration has never released the results of their compulsory faculty health surveys or (more to the point) the 2014 Faculty Culture Survey, even in terms of a statistical report that would preserve the anonymity of the respondents. In light of the results of the recent FaST survey, it is not hard to imagine why.

To those administrators and faculty focused on FaST membership rather than its survey results, we reiterate the obvious: that our identities have no bearing on the many serious issues facing both ASC and OSU, and that our anonymity is no impediment to community-wide discussion of those issues.

We believe a more productive response to our Academic Wellness Survey would be for several faculty groups, together with members of the administration, to analyze the large numbers of written comments and identify the main rationales provided for the responses to each survey question. This would further illuminate ASC faculty opinion, and possibly explain why the numerical results concerning the trajectory of OSU and the OSU administration were so overwhelmingly negative. We believe that the faculty responses to the Academic Wellness Survey, and in particular the comments included with those responses, constitute not just opinion but expert opinion, and in cases where the responses were overwhelmingly negative they reflect prevailing realities at OSU of which negative ‘faculty morale’ is but a symptom. Emphasizing the symptoms while ignoring their underlying causes is tantamount to denying those realities, and a recipe for the further deepening of OSU’s problems.

The FaST team stands ready to do its modest part in finding a path out of our difficulties, by inquiring of and then publishing faculty opinion. But such an effort, in order to be successful, requires an honest acknowledgement of the realities motivating that journey. We hope that OSU’s Board of Trustees and its senior administration will return to the formula of shared and collaborative governance that existed at OSU in the past, a formula that at one time made America’s public research universities the envy of the world. Should that happen at OSU – should the administration genuinely engage in such a partnership rather than simply pay lip service to the concept – then our organization would no longer be necessary.

Sincerely,
The Faculty Survey Team (FaST)

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Author: FaST

The Faculty Survey Team (FaST) is a group of faculty members in the Arts and Sciences College (ASC) at The Ohio State University. The ASC is the largest college in one of the largest research universities in the world.

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