U of C faculty morale low: survey

By Natalie Sit

A new survey paints a bleak picture of faculty morale.

The survey, conducted by The University of Calgary Faculty Association, questioned department heads on areas like classes, students, evaluating methods and research activities. Overall, the survey reports "the mood is grim, and in a few, there is a mood of black despair."

"It’s an accurate picture for a large part of the university," said TUCFA President Dr. Anton Colijn. "Few faculties don’t feel the pinch. By and large, in faculties that are not favoured by budget, there are general problems. Students should be worried."

The report pointed to frustration with crowded classrooms and fewer course offerings. It also highlighted professors using multiple-choice exams more than essays to evaluate students.

"It’s a travesty at the university level, there shouldn’t be many courses with multiple choice," said Dr. Colijn. "At the university level, there should be more interaction with professors than just checking off A, B, C or D."

Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist is also frustrated many professors resort to multiple-choice exams in large classes and sees a contradiction between increases in class size and an emphasis on inquiry-based learning.

U of C Vice-President External Roman Cooney believes the report underscores the common concerns of faculty and the university.

"The university is moving ahead on many important initiatives in many areas to address concerns," said Cooney. "We’re continuing class reductions where the pressure is greatest, investing in research and teaching support. The university is well aware but the challenge is balancing with finite resources."

A bright spot in the report was Computer Science. It was the only department to attract graduate students with targeted funding, increased staffing and a decreased need for sessionals.

"Computer science received additional funding and so computer science has very little to complain about," said Dr. Colijn. "It’s not the powers that be, but mainly the provincial government that should fund the core of the university."

Overall, Gilchrist hopes the SU’s quality survey, combined with the faculty’s survey, will send a clear message people are concerned about quality teaching.

"Students are greatly affected by professors’ level of energy and ability to communicate love for being in the classroom," said Gilchrist. "And when the professors don’t feel any of those, it affects students’ ability to receive a quality education."

However, Dr. Colijn is hopeful the government will understand their concerns.

"I’m optimistic to think the message will get through to the government that money spent on university is not a cost but pays dividends years down the road," said Dr. Colijn.

According to Cooney, students will see financial support in the upcoming university budget.

"If you go back [to] last year’s budget and then [look at] this year’s budget there is money into areas faculty and students have identified as a priority," said Cooney. "The decision to move to competitive admission we’ve reached is to maintain the quality students expect. The faculty association knows that."

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