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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Dear colleague,

Following the conclusion of the (first) Academic Wellness Survey conducted during the last two weeks of November, the complete results were posted on our document page and placed in the public domain. The link to these documents (along with a brief description of their contents) was contained in our email of 12/2/2015.

The purpose of this 12/2/2015 posting was to make the opinions of the ASC Faculty on these issues heard by as large an audience as possible. Not quite two months later (1/29/2015), we can report the following statistics:

  • Number of times the main survey documents folder has been accessed: 1,533
  • Number of different states (US) from which previews and downloads have occurred: 20
  • Number of different countries (including US) from which previews and downloads have occurred: 6

Major metropolitan areas (US) from which previews and downloads have occurred:

  • Boston, MA
  • Washington, DC
  • New York City (Manhattan), NY
  • Dallas, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Fransisco, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Palo Alto, CA
  • Cupertino, CA
  • Redmond, WA
  • Arlington, VA
  • Detroit, MI
  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Cleveland, OH

Major metropolitan areas (outside US) from which previews and downloads have occurred:

  • London, UK
  • Paris, FR
  • Berlin, DE
  • Lisbon, PT
  • Montreal, CA

Companies and Institutions of note (besides OSU) from which previews and downloads have occurred:

  • Apple Computer
  • Microsoft
  • U.S. Dept. of Energy

Unfortunately, this mode of publicization does not offer a platform for discussion. For that reason, we have created a public blog site ascfacultysurvey.wordpress.com open to all, where the results of the survey have been posted, and which is set up to allow comments to both the survey as well as individual questons. As in the case of the survey itself, our blog site is hosted by a company with no connections to OSU. Moreover, commenters are not required to provide any identification, and can post anonymously if they so wish.

For the purposes of promoting an open and honest discussion of topics affecting the OSU community, we have dedicated part of this site to the issues surrounding ARP (the Alternate Retirement Plan, to which a number of OSU faculty members subscribe). The information posted is based on the three fact sheets created by the faculty organization FAARPP (Faculty Association of ARP Participants) founded by a group of faculty in 2015 to study this issue. As with the survey, visitors can comment either on the main ARP page, or on one of the fact sheets appearing in the pull-down menu.

Sincerely,
The Faculty Survey Team (FaST)

Faculty Survey is now complete

Dear Colleague,

The first grassroots ASC Faculty Survey is now complete. If you were one of the 563 respondents, we thank you for participating. If not, we hope that you will consider participating in a future survey.

As indicated in our initial letter on Nov. 16, we are a small group of ASC faculty members who are interested in determining and communicating the opinions of our colleagues on the many serious challenges facing the Arts and Sciences College, and on the general trajectory of OSU and its administration. This first, deliberately general survey was implemented using SurveyMonkey. It began on 11/16/2015 and ended on 11/30/2015.

This email tells you how to download the results, which are presented in graphical form and are accompanied by a brief analysis of the degree of faculty consensus. As you will see, there was a strong to very strong consensus on most of the issues raised.

The survey allowed respondents to submit written comments on each topic, and we received a total of about 1,400 comments. Many of these comments are very thoughtful and interesting, so we are also making available to you one very large PDF file containing copies of each and every survey return, so you can examine and analyze these comments at your leisure. We believe they are a gold mine of useful observations, opinions, diagnoses and suggestions.

In conducting this survey, we have taken every precaution to maintain strict confidentiality. Respondents personal information (IP address, etc.) was not recorded. Nobody, including us, can connect a specific response or comment to a specific individual.

We have compiled the results made available to us by SurveyMonkey, and placed them in a Zoho Docs folder entitled “ASC grassroots survey 1”. The link to that folder is: https://docs.zoho.com/folder/3jviddcbac16dbd154c97b259a2d323ff5de7

That link will take you to a folder containing 5 items. Select Download. This will download a .zip folder with the 5 items. The total size is about 11MB, so it may take a minute or two. The individual documents and sub-folders contained in this folder are:

  1. SurveyResultsGraphicalSummary.pdf which is what you should examine first.
  2. ASC Faculty Survey Results.pdf which provides a brief analysis of consensus in (1).
  3. CompleteResponses.pdf This file contains the complete responses of the 563 faculty members who participated in the survey, including all their written comments. Responses are ordered chronologically according to the time of their submission. The respondent number in this ordering scheme appears in the upper left-hand corner of each response.
  4. Comments by question This sub-folder contains the set of all comments submitted for each question, with one file for each question (Q1-Q9). The numbering here differs from the numbering in the “CompleteResponses” document; it reflects the numbering determined by chronologically ordering the set of all comments to that particular question (it can be matched to its appearance in the first document by comparing submission times).
  5. Spreadsheets This sub-folder contains the two .zip files “Summary Data” and “Responses Data”. These are Excel spreadsheets with i) a summary of the results, and ii) the complete responses. The second file contains all of the information appearing in the CompleteResponses file, but in spreadsheet form [Note: the “Responses Data” file contains only 561 records, two less than “Complete Responses.pdf”. This is due to the fact that two respondents submitted blank surveys, which were recorded in the first file but not in the spreadsheet]. These spreadsheets are useful for anyone wishing to perform their own statistical analysis of the survey results.

As the creators and administrators of this survey, we hereby place the contents of this folder into the Public Domain. Any recipient of the link for this folder may share it with anyone they so choose, who in turn will also be able to download the folder and its contents. You are also free to transmit these results by other means, such as email. We place no restrictions of any kind in how these documents are used, with the caveat that any publication containing or referencing this work should credit the Faculty Survey Team (FaST) for conducting the survey and organizing and disseminating the results.

We plan to add one or two new products to the Zoho Docs folder in the next few weeks, so you may wish to examine it again in a month or so.

Sincerely,
The Faculty Survey Team

Academic Wellness Survey – a grassroots sounding of ASC faculty opinion

Dear ASC Colleague,

Our College is facing some serious difficulties and challenges, as most of you are aware. The ASC Faculty have a great deal of collective experience, so their opinion on the roots of our difficulties, and on the best ways to address them, should be germane and useful, especially where there is broad agreement. Our goal is to begin sounding and recording faculty opinion, with an emphasis on determining where there is a consensus of opinion, and where there is not. In order to minimize the effect on busy schedules, this survey, as well as all subsequent ones, will be limited to 10 questions. We begin with a very general survey. More focused pollings will follow.

Included below is a link to the first survey. It was created by a group of ASC faculty members. We have done our best to ensure strict confidentiality. The survey itself is being done through a third-party provider (SurveyMonkey) with no connections to OSU. Moreover, the settings for the survey are such that email and IP addresses are not recorded.

The survey is closed; each link allows the recipient to take the survey once. Upon submission, you will be able to see the real-time statistics for the survey up to that point in time. It is being sent out to 1,000+ ASC faculty with the rank of Asst. Prof. or above, as well as the roughly 400 Emeritus faculty currently listed on their departmental websites and having an osu.edu email address. Post-docs, visitors, and adjunct faculty have not been included in this survey.

The link will remain active until 11:59pm on 11/30/2015. Upon completion we will be emailing the results to all recipients.

Each question has space allocated for a short comment. More extensive comments (or suggestions) can be sent to ascfacultysurvey@gmail.com

sincerely,

The ASC Faculty Survey Team

PS SurveyMonkey does not offer a method of printing out your completed survey. Those wishing to keep a record of their submission should save a copy of the full webpage as a .pdf file in a secure location.