- Professors respond to genuinely positive, caring work environments with greater enthusiasm than broader efforts like bringing in outside consultants or embarking on strategic initiatives around hiring or promoting interdisciplinary activities, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- A recent study questioned 3,600 recently tenured associate professors in over 50 institutions, and found that one-to-one interaction greatly outranked broad university efforts in promoting faculty happiness and motivation. The authors noted, however, that lower-ranking faculty members might feel differently than those surveyed.
- Because “[i]mproving how employees treat each other requires fewer financial resources ‘than strategic initiatives,’” the authors said their findings bode well for limited resource institutions.
As the concepts of shared governance and teacher tenure are hotly-debated, including by critics who believe professors are offered too many amenities and protections by higher educational institutions, it becomes more difficult to see how universities can create a nurturing work environment on campus while keeping costs down. The benefits of tenure track positions and a seat at the table can be tools used to offer faculty members a modicum of stability, but where financial decisions constrain these hires, placing more emphasis on one-to-one interaction through professional development can help close the gaps.
Colleges and universities will continue to face the dual pinches of declining public funding and decreased alumni support, and the lack of resources will also challenge college administration when trying to make a welcoming workplace for professors. Expensive construction and projects are being commissioned to attract students while institutions also feel the pressure to keep costs affordable. In the short term, spending big on attaining and retaining students will increase tuition revenue, but this is a potential long-term consequence to a school’s reputation if their faculty retention is poor.