April 1, 2022 | NEWS | By Eli Jaynes
In December, Colorado College conducted its periodic Faculty and Staff Climate and Engagement survey, which aims to collect feedback from employees about what the college is doing well and what it can improve upon. The recently-released survey results illuminate important areas that CC faculty and staff appear dissatisfied with – among them wages, transparency, and senior leadership.
This year’s survey is the third iteration of the Climate and Engagement Survey, following those conducted in 2013 and 2015. All three surveys are now published on the college’s website.
Lyrae Williams, Associate Vice President of the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, says that 2021 called for another survey for a few reasons. Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and amidst a leadership change in the president’s office, Williams said it was time to reevaluate the status of the college from the point of view of faculty and staff.
In all, 70% of college employees responded to the survey, with 76% of the staff responding and 58% of the faculty.
The preliminary results paint a bleak picture, but it’s one that Williams says she expected.
“Without even looking at the surveys, I believe there is more dissatisfaction, and it’s a culmination of the times, of not only the pandemic, but we’re having a change in leadership, and change brings up fear,” Williams said.
The dissatisfaction that Williams describes is highlighted through a few of the 76 survey questions posed to faculty and staff. Employees were asked to respond to each statement by selecting one of five responses, ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”
A response of “strongly agree” or “agree” indicates a positive response, while “disagree” or “strongly disagree” constitutes a negative response. “Sometimes agree/sometimes disagree” is considered a neutral response.
Overall, staff members seem most concerned about wages. Only 20% of hourly staff agreed with the statement, “I am paid fairly for my work,” with 59% disagreeing. Of the salaried staff, the numbers did not look much better, with only 34% responding positively to the same statement.
The last time this survey was conducted, which was in 2015, 43.5% of all staff respondents agreed that they were paid fairly for their work. Only 28.5% disagreed.
The faculty, on the other hand, seem to be more concerned with the college’s leadership and how the institution is run. 11% of faculty responded positively to the statement, “Senior leadership provides a clear direction for the institution’s future.” 46% responded negatively.
Additionally, only 31% of faculty agreed with the statement “Decisions based on the institution’s policies and processes are applied with appropriate transparency.”
Doug Edlin, a professor in the political science department, attributed part of this dynamic to the college’s recent leadership change.
Edlin speculates that there is, “a sense that there isn’t a clear vision for the college’s future direction. It’s understandable, we have just gone through a significant transition, in particular in three upper administrative roles at the institution.”
Though Edlin makes it clear that he does not entirely feel this way personally, he also identifies “a widely held sense that there is a lack of transparency in decision making, particularly at the upper administration level.”
The survey results appear to support Edlin’s speculations, especially compared to past years’ results, which showed more positive responses to the same survey questions.
One final statement stood out among faculty and staff respondents: “There’s a sense that we’re all on the same team at this institution.”
Of all respondents, combining faculty and staff, only 30% agreed with this statement, while 37% disagreed. These results are striking, especially considering that in 2015, 49% of employees agreed with the same statement, and only 16% disagreed.
Edlin points out that students and faculty tend to work in compressed time frames and in isolated spaces on the block plan, and therefore move from moment to moment without engaging collectively with one another. Edlin says he feels a strong connection to those in his department, but that it can be difficult to feel connected to other groups on campus who are similarly isolated in their own work.
“People sometimes tend to experience CC as a group of islands, rather than one country,” said Edlin.
He also notes that this structure can create a divide between students and faculty who live and work on the block plan, and staff members who do not. He says that this causes the faculty and staff to experience CC differently, further contributing to the pervasive sense that employees are not working together on common goals.
Importantly, the Climate and Engagement Survey highlights areas for the administration to focus on going forward – areas Williams refers to as “opportunities.” In her words, “I was prepared for even worse. Because to me, we can only go up from here. As long as we work on it. And we have to intentionally work on it.”