The pandemic diminished faculty power at some colleges: survey

Dive Brief: 

  • Nearly one-fourth of polled faculty governance leaders at four-year colleges said faculty members had less influence on institutional decision-making since the pandemic started, while nearly 15% said their influence had grown. 

  • That’s according to a new survey from the American Association of University Professors, which received responses from around 400 faculty leaders. Just 3% of respondents thought faculty members had the same level of impact over budget decisions as administrators. 

  • The faculty organization has contended that some colleges are using the pandemic as an excuse to flout shared governance, lay off faculty members and shut down programs. 


Dive Insight: 

AAUP asked faculty leaders to gauge how much sway faculty members had over institutional decision-making before and after the pandemic began. Those saying they were “not influential at all” doubled from 5% to 10% — the largest jump in any of the categories. 

However, 6.6% of faculty leaders said members were “extremely influential” in decision-making, up from 5.4% before the health crisis. Some respondents said faculty members’ power had grown because they were “more vigilant and outspoken” during the pandemic. 

Two-thirds of respondents said faculty members had no control over budgeting decisions, while just under one-third said they had “meaningful” influence.  

Faculty leaders at colleges with more than 5,000 students were less likely to say their administrations made budget decisions unilaterally compared to their peers at schools with 5,000 or fewer students. 

The survey results also highlight the toll the pandemic has taken on instructors. One in 10 respondents at schools with tenure systems said their institutions had laid off tenured or tenure-track faculty members, while one in four of the full sample said their colleges had taken the same action with contingent faculty members. 

That tracks with previous research from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, which shows that adjuncts experienced the heaviest job losses among faculty groups during the 2020-21 academic year. 

The new data comes just a week after AAUP published the results of its investigation into eight schools over faculty governance concerns. The organization concluded that all the schools probed had violated or disregarded governance standards, adding that institutions nationwide have complained about similar problems. 

Faith in college leaders has also been declining during the pandemic, according to a survey of 832 faculty members by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Forty-two percent of respondents said their trust in the administration had waned during the pandemic, while just 14% said it had increased.

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