Institutional Loyalty among faculty is declining

What a surprise! The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports on a study to be discussed at the National Education Association conference on Higher Ed. The data was collected in 1992 and 2007. In the US the percentage of faculty reporting moderate to strong loyalty to their institution has dropped from 90% to 61%. And the trend seems to be wide-spread:

Among other nations examined, the proportion of faculty members expressing moderate or strong loyalty to their institutions declined from 87 percent to 51 percent in Australia, from 80 percent to 63 percent in Japan, from 97 to 74 in South Korea, and from 84 to 38 percent in the Britain.

Since the figures are pre-recession figures, one can only suppose the decline is increasing. There is little indication of why this is so. One commenter on the CHE article suggests that it is due to all the faculty brought over from the former Soviet Union. That doesn’t seem to me quite right. Another suggests that administrators no longer know or care about higher education. If that’s what it seems like to faculty then the figures might even be moderate, with the exception of the British, possibly once again in the lead on higher ed issues.

As I was thinking about this, I followed Kate Norlock’s suggestion of buying Margaret Walker’s Moral Repair; I got the immediate gratification version for Kindle for under $15. Walker discusses the repair that harmful wrong doing requires. While she starts with a stark case of torture in Chile under Pinochet, she also includes these: Spouses and lovers are unfaithful, children selfish, associates unfair, friends deceitful; there are slights, insults, lies, acts of indifference, betrayal, aggression or violence among us… . Given the clichés that productive faculty face a lot of negative feed-back (“It’s always the third reviewer“) and that university political life is vicious, I wonder how many faculty feel instinctively that they have been injured.

In this context, the following passage struck me as possibly related to the issue of institutional loyalty:

Communities also can be harmed by serious wrongdoing, because it may shatter individual members’ sense of security and call into question the authority of standards and the effectiveness of protective institutions.

So let me asked about the extent to which faculty feel besieged by demands from unknowing administrators who are largely clueless about how to sustain some moral order.

What do you think?

And finally let me clarify that the reflections are not about my own institution; rather, I’ve been looking at what seem to me rather horrific developments in post-tenure review at the University of Texas, linked to on Leiter’s blog.

6 thoughts on “Institutional Loyalty among faculty is declining

  1. Senior faculty are surprised at my institution that some of the “youngsters” (I’m 53) lack interest in promotion and tenure. Your phrase “that university political life is vicious, I wonder how many faculty feel instinctively that they have been injured,” captures my reason for eschewing the P & T process.

    Additionally, there is the power-mongering from administrative “deanlings” (word coined by Benjamin Ginsberg in The Fall of the Faculty) who, at my institution, have changed Latin honors rules and reconfigured the graduation ceremony to their liking, excluding faculty in the process. And then there is the disappointment of finding that one’s colleagues are not, in fact, collegial, but competitive enough to be willing to underperform on a mutual project in order to make others look bad.

    As a nurse fresh from her PhD, I naively believed that academia in a caring profession would be less harsh. It is sad that even a profession that espouses respect for individuals, the celebration of diversity, mutual caring and sensitivity to the needs of others should succumb to such an aggressive model. The page that my name links to explains things in more detail.

  2. At my SLAC, I find a certain segment of the younger faculty have less loyalty to the college because the Prez who ‘hired’ them so badmouthed the place and the senior faculty.

    Interesting, I think.

  3. sissystars, I sometimes think I’ll write a book about the inevitability of mediocrity at some colleges and universities. You’ve given me a new example, though one close to ones I’ve witnessed.

    Teresa Goodell, I remember when some of the President’s cabinet wanted to color code our whole campus with flags of different colors. Consult the faculty? Never crossed their minds. This was years ago, I should say, and they never got organized enough to do it.

    The more serious issue of the bruising that P&T can cause is a very genuine problem. I’m so glad you can avoid it.. When I went up for promotion, every sentence in the college committee’s letter was false; that is, every sentence explaining their negative decision. It was very remarkable. One did get the sense that they had made up their minds in advance of the evidence. The next thing one finds out in the appeal and later on in the process is who feels obligated to support whom. It is not fun, since again decisions are made and the justification is just invented. Again this was a long time ago, but I think processes like this can leave people permanently wary of their institution.

  4. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here (or in the first two paragraphs of the chronicle article, which is all I can see sans subscription) is the fact that most faculties are largely made of of adjuncts whose ties to their university are strained almost by definition. And going through that process can hardly lead towards warm feelings later on.

  5. Hbookbinder, that very goodvpoint is not raised. It may be that the subjects were all tt. I’ll see if there is any way to find that out.

  6. It’s hard to feel loyal to instutitions: that don’t seem to value the humanities, that make it feel as though you are constantly fighting for the survival of your department, that push you to teach more and more students even though you know that your courses will suffer, that give administrators big bonuses while cuts are being made elsewhere, that make you wallow through mounds of red tape, that allow inequities in the way that men and women are treated to persist. These are just the things that quickly leapt to the top of my mind; I’m sure there are others.

    I don’t know if there was ever some “good old days” when these things were better, but they certainly are a problem at many institutions now.

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