Summary of Written Comments
Fifteenth Faculty Senate Survey 2002

What follows are brief summaries to the eighteen comment questions that accompanied the 2002 USA Faculty Senate Survey. The purpose of the comment questions is to elucidate the numerical statistical data. The complete text of the written commentary is available at Government Documents in the USA University Library and any faculty member is welcome to read it. Anybody else who is interested in the full text needs to consult with the Chair of the USA Faculty Senate due to the sensitive material contained therein. A few of the faculty members who filled out the comment sections asked that their comments not be shared. Their request has been granted and the comments have been deleted from all copies of the survey so that, other than playing a role in the summaries that follow, there is no record of them.

Over sixty pages of commentary are being summarized here. The observations point toward a need for the Administration at USA and the faculty to make concrete decisions as to the future of this university and its mission. Is USA primarily a research institution or a teaching university, or a delicate balance of the two. If the latter is true then how should this balance be achieved with regard to appropriate work load assignations, filling lines with tenure-track positions, research monies, faculty development, expansion of graduate programs, curricular changes, library acquisitions, construction on campus, . . Although it is true that additional resources are needed to meet these needs and that times are tough nationwide given decreasing state allocations, one can see these comments and the moment as an opportunity to work together in order to set the priorities which will in fact prove most beneficial to the university community, to the city of Mobile, and to the state of Alabama.

A rather strident point of concern among the faculty regards the recent implementation of the new health insurance policy. Many are finding it nearly impossible to cope with the dramatic increase in the cost of prescription medicines which is so high that it offsets any advantage that the recent raise may have provided. Others would like to see increased benefits to make up for the generally low salaries, for example with higher TIAA-CREF matching.

Recently a faculty member who has been teaching at USA for thirty years made the remark that faculty morale has never been as low as it is currently is. Putting the past few years into a historical perspective helps explain why the faculty is discouraged. The previous administration of the university began to lose its focus in the past decade. When the new administration took over in July of 1998 foregoing, for the most part, national searches for new leadership, it sought to bring necessary fiscal responsibility to the institution. This kind of an approach, even under the best of circumstances, is always perceived as harsh. To make matters worse, pro-ration hit in AY 2001 -2002 placing the university in an even less advantageous situation with regard to implementing fiscal responsibility. Although everyone at this university sacrificed something: the administration put in many extra hours; the students endured larger classes, it was the faculty that faced the full brunt of the setbacks. Their sacrifices have come in the way of higher teaching loads, larger class sizes, lapsed research agendas, additional adjunct faculty, the institution of new programs without much consultation, and a reduction in faculty development opportunities. Furthermore, an alarming level of paranoia is sweeping the faculty in most colleges whereby the faculty truly feels that it cannot express its' concerns freely without facing direct or indirect reprimand. Way too many colleagues have happily found jobs elsewhere and many who have been here as long as twenty years are suddenly thinking of foregoing the benefits of the Alabama Teacher Retirement System and moving.

At this juncture the faculty is asking for the opportunity to actively participate in the governance of the university. In other words it is asking to be consulted with regard to all major decisions that affect it directly. The faculty would like to see the administration develop concrete five and ten year plans with specifics that would include curriculum needs, staffing needs, space needs, and the full integration of the university to the Gulf Coast area in every capacity it has to offer. The faculty must be duly recognized state-wide and regionally for its' efforts and many successes. As someone stated in the commentary: "the faculty is the glue that holds this university together."

The President of the University is successfully working toward involving the university more integrally with the Mobile community. Another favorable recent achievement has been the appointment of a Vice-President for Development and Alumni Affairs. The establishment of the Research Park is also a potentially exciting venue for intellectual development and recognition. The faculty is the university's most important asset in this and all its other goals. In fact, as another respondent to the survey wrote: "there is no reason why this university shouldn't be considered the premier institution of higher learning for the Gulf Coast area."

In conclusion, the written responses and the statistical data provide an opportunity and an aperture for dialogue with the ultimate goal of achieving something that everybody who works for this university deeply wants to be involved with: the Premier Institution of the Gulf Coast with a First Class Medical School.

Isabel Z. Brown, Chair
USA Faculty Senate 2002-2003

Query 1: Please express any concerns regarding leadership of the University of South Alabama that may impact your ability to attain excellence in your activities at the University:

The main concerns in no particular order include:

  1. excessive teaching loads
  2. inadequate resources
  3. disappointment in the changes in the College of Medicine
  4. people in power whose lengthy tenure has outlived their creative potential
  5. people in power whose style is so abusive that it serves to undermine the very goal they had set out to achieve by killing morale and creating a hostile working environment
  6. people in power who have little or no experience in the classroom, and/or no experience conducting research; hence not good role models
  7. unwillingness to allow for faculty input at all levels
  8. tenure-track lines being replaced with adjuncts
  9. need to fill lines to meet projected growth enrollment of 2% a year
  10. a lack of commitment to scholarship and research
  11. a lack of demonstrated leadership in several colleges
  12. paranoia
  13. a lack of a comprehensive vision as to the academic mission of this institution
  14. irrational tenure decisions
  15. nepotism
  16. favoritism
  17. depiction of the University in the press
  18. Is the University a business or an institution for higher learning?
Query 2: Please express any concerns regarding conditions that may impact your opportunity to achieve excellence in teaching:

The main concerns, in no particular order, include:

  1. increased teaching loads
  2. lack of release time
  3. the lack of bearing that "teaching excellence" has on tenure decisions
  4. poor pay
  5. limited nature of e-college - its format is bad
  6. recent tenure decisions
  7. no rewards for teaching
  8. huge class sizes
  9. no time for research which is necessary to stay abreast of one's discipline and which directly contributes to excellence in teaching
  10. faculty physicians stretched too thinly due to recent departures
  11. too much focus on retaining students who lack the skill to be successful in college
  12. the unreasonable demands of online teaching without special consideration
  13. deplorable conditions of the physical plants
  14. computer-assisted teaching resources grossly inadequate
  15. need to use graduate assistants
  16. inadequate technological support
  17. Chairs that change the rules, do not honor commitments and are inflexible
  18. seriously inadequate laboratory facilities
Query 3: Please express any concerns regarding conditions that may impact your opportunity to achieve excellence in research on Publications/Creative Works:

The main concerns, in no particular order, include:

  1. excessive teaching workload
  2. inability to distinguish between quality and quantity in research on the part of the upper administration
  3. lack of emphasis on research and technology development
  4. lack of adequate space to accommodate research/student/graduate assistants
  5. if librarians are going to be evaluated on research then they need to be given time away from work to accomplish this
  6. travel restrictions
  7. too much time devoted to advising
  8. too many course preps
  9. not enough mentoring of junior faculty - junior leave should be available to complete a manuscript
  10. lack of support staff to assist in grant writing
  11. favoritism in granting release time
  12. clinical workload too high
  13. lack of technical support
  14. inherent suspicion of researchers
Query 4: With regard to Service and Leadership, please describe concerns about leadership that would significantly improve your personal career opportunities:

The main concerns, in no particular order, include:

  1. no real opportunity to participate in faculty governance.
  2. those who provide services are rewarded with even more responsibilities
  3. too many reports and assessments
  4. too many committee assignments - too few tenured faculty to cover important service projects well. Success is ultimately determined by self-served interests and political manipulations
  5. committee work seems to go nowhere
  6. committee work is not valued
  7. some administrators assign committee work to untenured faculty and then ask them to fulfill their (the administrator's) goals
  8. upper and lower level administrators resist new ideas
Query 5: Please express any concerns you may have regarding services provided by the Computer Services Center:

The main concerns, in no particular order, include:

  1. personnel is friendly and helpful but the technology is obsolete throughout the university system
  2. Computer Services Center is understaffed
  3. better software needed
  4. internet access is too slow
  5. PINE is frustrating
  6. get rid of GROUPWISE
Query 6: Please express any concerns you may have regarding services offered or performed by the University Library

The main concerns or comments, in no particular order, include:

  1. librarians are patient, helpful, and efficient - in fact, wonderful
  2. need more in-services especially at SHAC
  3. access to more recent journal issues is needed
  4. dire lack of journals and books relevant to research needs
  5. resource allocation to departments for library acquisitions has not changed in at least 12 years
Query 7: Please express any concerns you may have regarding services offered or performed by the Biomedical Library:

The main concerns or comments, in no particular order, include:

  1. great job
  2. excellent resource
  3. need more online nursing journals
  4. improve direct access
  5. need to upgrade the capacity in the library branch at Children's and Women's Hospital
Query 8: Explicitly what, if anything, hurts your morale regarding the University of South Alabama:

The main concerns or comments, in no particular order, include:

  1. lack of new academic facilities on campus.
  2. apparent mutual lack of respect between faculty and administrators
  3. USA Foundation fiasco which hurts our reputation and keeps USA from moving forward
  4. ambiguity with regard to regulations for vacation and leave for 12 month faculty
  5. the perception that the College of Medicine is in bad shape
  6. recent tenure-denial decisions - their unfairness - secrecy
  7. increased teaching expectations
  8. handling of pro-ration crisis
  9. no coherent vision on the part of administrators
  10. too much additional paperwork in the area of Grants and Contracts
  11. failed lobbying efforts
  12. inability to attract faculty
  13. lack of support for carrying out research and scholarly activities
  14. no raises or low raises
  15. lack of input on the part of the faculty - a top down administrative style
  16. the exodus of faculty to other institutions
  17. paranoia
  18. health insurance plan
  19. intimidation
  20. constant uncertainty about the financial future of the university
  21. poor staffing in the hospitals
  22. lack of academic rigor
  23. lack of competitiveness
  24. poor leadership
  25. too much focus on the student
  26. not enough tenure-track faculty to keep pace with University growth
  27. favoritism
Query 9: If you are sensitive to issues that hurt your morale, what could be done to correct the situation:

Some of the suggestions, in no particular order:

  1. faculty input in the governance
  2. significant influx of additional faculty in the College of Medicine
  3. define the true status of a librarian - too many non-tenure track librarians
  4. lower co-pay on medical care
  5. identify key issues and then create a 5 year plan
  6. a more reasonable evaluation process whereby faculty contributions are properly weighted
  7. identify academic objectives
  8. compare USA to other Division I medical school-supporting Universities rather than comparing the university to non-medical universities of a similar size
  9. eliminate fear and intimidation
  10. trust
  11. recover all frozen lines
  12. move away from the "do more with less" attitude that has prevailed over the past years
  13. "Unfortunately it seems that the best thing to do under the present circumstances is to put up and shut up."
  14. a Faculty Senate that is pro-active
  15. hire an outside facilitator to mediate between the faculty and the administration
  16. invite upper administrators to classes
Query 10: What could the Faculty Senate do that would be of benefit to the University:

The suggestions or comments, in no particular order, include:

  1. take a real stand against the increases in teaching as it cuts into research capabilities
  2. establish work load and vacation policies
  3. demand proper funding
  4. require productivity from all administrators
  5. adopt a less confrontational, less strident tone in dealing with the administration
  6. encourage faculty involvement in university affairs
  7. the administration will blame a "whining faculty"
  8. the Senate is full of wimps
  9. the prevailing sense of apathy among tenured faculty keeps them from running for the Senate which is filled with non-tenured faculty who feel too intimidated to say or do anything
  10. develop some backbone and take a stronger stand
  11. quit and let someone who is willing to fight for the faculty take over
  12. the Senate needs to be the University's conscience, not a rubber stamp of the administration
  13. have the final say
  14. lead a drive for unionization
  15. timidity is not the way to make progress
  16. strive for higher pay
  17. the problem is not the Senate but that neither the Board of Trustees nor the administration cares what the faculty thinks
  18. provide checks and balances for the administration
  19. utilize electronic means to solicit opinion on a wide variety of issues
  20. Faculty Senate should be more aggressive
  21. "I hear many good ideas but nothing ever comes of them."
Query 11: With the USA Health Plan I have an adequate choice of primary doctors. Please explain:

Comments, in no particular order, include the following:

  1. co-pays are outrageous
  2. the model for the USA Health Plan is poorly designed
  3. when seeing USA physicians or hospitals I face administrative "nightmares"
  4. "I have had to break off established relationships with doctors."
  5. lack of services and coverage
  6. "Prescription prices are killing me!" (and lots of other people who took the survey - this was by far the main complaint)
  7. USA has lost so many physicians that it is hard to get appointments with specialists
  8. not enough gynecologists
  9. "My own experience with calling the USA Health Plan office questions has been excellent."
  10. "If I'm willing to pay a $25.00 co-pay, I can choose anyone I want! That's fine with me, it's better than before."
  11. "Faculty at USA need to realize that health care costs are exploding and the plan the University offers is a tremendous value"
  12. "I appreciate the expanded network with BCBS, but the increased financial burden is a negative. Also, BCBS as a company does not support USA graduates (Medical School, Nursing, Allied Health) in terms of employment. In other words, their policies are driving graduates out of state to seek employment."
  13. "The loss of the oncology doctors was very disturbing."
  14. "The new insurance plan is biased against those of us who live across the bay."
  15. "Compared to other Medical School supporting Division I Universities, our benefits program is not competitive."
  16. "I think there should be more dermatologists on staff."
  17. increase monthly premiums instead of co-pays
  18. doctors arbitrarily excluded
  19. "Dealing with Prime Health was like dealing with a nightmare!"
  20. "Glad that USA switched from PrimeHealth to BCBS, HOWEVER . . . wish that the increased cost had been passed on in the monthly charge rather than the convoluted 3 tier system."
  21. happy to have an alternative plan
  22. "What if the care, for which there is no USA doctor is needed?"
  23. whole university community should have been consulted
  24. USA has no ophthalmologists.
Query 12: The co-pay under the USA Health Plan is adequate for physician co-pay, drugs, USA Hospitals, non-USA Hospitals, USA emergency care, non-USA emergency care - Please explain:

Comments, in no particular order, include the following:

  1. Too high
  2. "Co-pay amounts are reasonable. I also think it is appropriate to have incentives (lower costs) for utilizing USA services and physicians."
  3. "Too much of a disparity in co-pay from one emergency room to another which risks causing someone to compound an emergency if they miss-evaluate a situation."
  4. lack of emergency care in Baldwin County
  5. "The solutions, while harsh compared to the old system, are not draconian when compared with the rest of America."
  6. USA hospitals are poorly staffed
  7. many specialties not available under the USA system
  8. prices for many families have as much as tripled
  9. the way the changes were implemented was wrong - no faculty input
  10. should have basic dental insurance
  11. special vital screenings not covered
Query 13: The USA Health Plan adequately covered the cost of being treated in a non USA emergency room. Please explain:

Comments, in no particular order, include the following

  1. shameful
  2. huge co-pay
  3. should have best treatment immediately where the emergency occurs. USA Health Plan currently does not allow this
  4. why bother?
Query 14: The USA Health Plan adequately covered the cost of preventative medical services. Please explain:

Comments, in no particular order, include the following:

  1. had a good experience after cholesterol and PSA was checked
  2. gynecological care not covered including mammography and pap smears
  3. USA Family Practice group at Knollwood does a good job
  4. annual prostate exam not covered
  5. absence of a dental plan
  6. eye exams not covered
  7. received free flu shot and booster tetanus
  8. little emphasis given for preventative measures
Query 15: My health care costs have or have not gone up significantly under the new USA Health Plan. Please explain:

The observations included the following:

  1. (All respondents to this question listed the excessive increase in drug co-pay as the main criticism.)
  2. (Faculty was bothered by the co-pays for seeing doctors others than the ones they had already established a relationship with.)
  3. there are delays in getting approval for retesting and supplies
Query 16: Please express any concerns you might have regarding USA Health Plan issues:

The suggestions and concerns include the following:

  1. system needs to evaluated with regard to the cost/benefit on services
  2. will there be coverage for congenital heart disease, organ transplant, bone marrow transplant, oncology, etc?
  3. need to add dental benefits
  4. offer a couples plan
  5. premiums should be based on number of dependents in a family
  6. increase doctor's co-pay and decrease Rx costs
  7. better overall coverage is needed
  8. "The administration needs to hear that this is a VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE to faculty. Taxing the user places a heavy burden on junior faculty with small children and senior faculty experiencing chronic illnesses (frequently after many years of excellent health). It's sort of like kicking a man when he's down. Even healthy faculty doesn't like the message this sends about the value of individuals at an institution."
Query 17: Please express any concerns you have regarding technology issues that impact your performance at the University:

Concerns, in no particular order, include the following:

  1. not enough student labs
  2. need a responsive team to assist faculty with computer problems
  3. need web-based internet access for travelers
  4. rational policy for continuous upgrades
  5. inadequate bandwidth
  6. support personnel is polite and understanding but understaffed and lacking in expertise
  7. why an MS Word standard?
  8. why e-College?
  9. need Blackboard and WebCT
  10. network is too slow
  11. inadequate technology and poor management
  12. University need site licenses so that "faculty can utilize the software at home for work-related application at no charge"
  13. need high speed access for medical teaching and clinical purposes between hospital locations - no outpatient computer access to get medical laboratory or radiology data
  14. USA Computer Center is not competitive
  15. institute a three-year replacement program for extant computers or at least provide make available new software.
  16. need resources to stay current in teaching and research activities as opposed to being behind as is currently the case
  17. computer courses that are offered through the Computer Services Center are excellent
  18. very inadequate tech support on the College of Education
Query 18: Please express any opinions you have:

Some of the opinions included the following:

  1. there is no reason why the College of Medicine can't be a leader in Mobile and in the nation.
  2. faculty is being driven off by an untrustworthy administration
  3. University must push for leadership at the foundation
  4. split commencement between graduates and undergraduates
  5. library faculty needs to be recognized at commencement along with other faculty members
  6. distance learning has overburdened numerous faculty who are forced (not asked) to put together courses.
  7. online course was "dumped" on instructor with no preparation
  8. "I really thought that last year, my responses to this survey couldn't be any more gloomy. I was wrong. This institution is heading for a train wreck."
  9. "Past three years at USA were a slow meltdown!"
  10. administrators need performance goals
  11. "I hope the University Fringe Benefits Committee and the Personnel Office follows up on the complaints [regarding BCBS] they have been receiving from so many members of the USA faculty and staff."
  12. very little expertise or innovation among university leadership
  13. "Faculty morale is very low and being ignored."
  14. "Why do I have to read about innovations always at other places."
  15. suggestions for interdisciplinary programs, teaching enhancements, recruiting campaigns, technological improvements are summarily ignored
  16. "I'm positioning myself as a strong candidate to other institutions so I can find another job."
  17. "My department has lost many excellent professors who are now being replaced with instructors."
  18. "This is a terrible way to take a survey. Time is wrong. Sources are traceable. DO NOT USE INTERNET FOR THIS TYPE OF INPUT."
  19. "Five of us plan to leave, otherwise we wouldn't have the gumption to be honest in even a supposedly 'anonymous' survey."
  20. distance learning class sizes must not be viewed as "the more the better"
  21. distance learning cannot replace classroom interaction especially at the current level of available technology.
  22. no leadership for distance learning -- faculty work on their own without reward, encouragements or recognition.
  23. e-college system is very bad
  24. distance learning needs to be focused in terms of the intended audience. For example partnering with Community Colleges to offer instruction via compressed video would help enrollment by offering a migratory path for the enrolled students.
  25. stop micro-managing the faculty
  26. stop making the University into a business with a time clock
  27. unfreeze position to draw more students and give them a quality education
  28. reconsider admission standards particularly at the Graduate Level
  29. classes in the College of Education need to be capped
  30. professors should be able to retain the intellectual property rights to their own work. Some are very interested in developing distance learning courses but refuse to do so because they are not given this right.
  31. everywhere, except at USA, the matching contribution to a 403b plan ranges from 5-8% and there is no three year waiting period
  32. too many "in-house searches" makes us stagnant and resistant to change at administrative levels
  33. graduation services should be done by college.
  34. survey is too long
  35. "Thanks Faculty Senate. Good Luck."

End of Comments

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