UCSF Faculty Climate Survey Identifies Areas for Improvement

By Lisa Cisneros

crowd of UCSF faculty on a patio
UCSF leaders and faculty explore the Faculty Development Day information fair in September 2016. Photo by Elisabeth Fall

A new faculty climate survey finds that while three quarters of faculty are generally satisfied with their careers at UC San Francisco, there is room for improvement particularly related to campus climate for women, balancing work and family life and financial challenges of living and working in San Francisco.

The 2017 faculty climate survey is the third of its kind after similar surveys were conducted in 2011 and 2001 by the same opinion research firm, Belden Russonello Strategists Inc.

Read the Reports

The entire Faculty Climate Survey and Faculty Family Friendly Initiative reports are posted on the Academic Affairs website.

As in years past, faculty members are most satisfied with the intellectual stimulation and interaction with students and colleagues at UCSF, rating satisfaction at 90 percent or slightly above. Faculty also appreciate the mix of teaching, research and patient care activities at UCSF.

Satisfaction with mentoring, which has increased over all three surveys, is a popular part of work life among faculty at UCSF. Faculty who have been mentored convey more positive views throughout the survey.

Faculty members are least satisfied (23 percent) about gaining support for new ventures or start-ups and obtaining grants (41 percent) to fund their work.

Some 1,158 faculty members, 84 percent from the School of Medicine, answered the web-based survey, which was conducted from March 20 to April 10, 2017. The 39 percent response rate reflects a decline in participation from previous years.

Campus Climate and Equity

Overall, faculty perceive the climate at UCSF as healthy for all, but the 2017 survey results reveal that much of the progress made in improving the climate for women that was evident between the 2001 and 2011 surveys appears to have stalled and worsened in some cases.

While UCSF is generally viewed as promoting a good climate for women, the survey shows a reversal from the growth in positive views among women faculty themselves. The survey found that the perception by women faculty that men get preferential treatment has increased from 2011, as have women faculty’s negative views on how they see their opportunities for advancement and participation in formal meetings and committees.

While overall satisfaction rates for balancing work and family life continues its upward trend reflecting recent progress made, the survey shows that women and those early in their careers are more discontent than UCSF faculty overall.

And although survey findings indicate an increased perception since 2011 that UCSF is promoting a supportive climate for faculty of all races, one-third of underrepresented minorities say they face unequal treatment at every level of the organization (campus, school and department). These negative views among underrepresented minorities have grown since 2011. In contrast, only about one in 10 white and Asian respondents share this sentiment.

Three-quarters of the faculty surveyed see UCSF as successful in promoting a climate free of discrimination based on sexual orientation, a sentiment shared by LGBTQ faculty.

Improving Faculty Life

To review the survey findings in detail and develop an action plan with recommendations, Vice Provost Brian Alldredge, PharmD, has appointed and will chair a faculty committee comprised of representatives from all four schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. The committee will submit its action plan to the Chancellor’s Executive Cabinet for consideration later this year.

“This survey is an important tool to monitor how well the University is doing in our efforts to create a supportive and welcoming climate for our diverse and growing faculty,” Alldredge says. “This year’s results point to a few areas of concern, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities, and we intend to address these issues going forward.”

Alldredge and a committee have already submitted a plan to improve family-life issues, such as making child-bearing and child-rearing leave policies and practices equitable across UCSF. That Faculty Family Friendly Initiative is being considered by UCSF leadership in light of the 2017 faculty survey findings to address top priorities.

Elizabeth Ozer, PhD, chair of the University of California Systemwide Committee on the Status of Women and a member of the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women at UCSF, is part of the committee that will look at the survey data and recommend strategies for improvements.

“We are seeing differences in the perceptions of the climate between men and women that are quite consistent with the UC-wide climate survey of 2013,” she says.

Ozer points out that UCSF has made progress with initiatives focused on improving the quality of the faculty’s academic and professional experience at UCSF, and supporting women faculty in their career advancement and work/family life. These efforts are led by a number of campus groups, including the Campus Council of Faculty Life (CCFL), the Office of Diversity and Outreach, the Committee on the Status of Women, Campus Life Services, the UCSF Committee on Family Services. The new Great People, Great Place Initiative also aims at making UCSF a better place to teach, learn and discover.

In recent years, UCSF has expanded professional and leadership development opportunities, offered training on topics like unconscious bias, developed materials on actions to ensure UCSF is inclusive to women, increased child and elder care services, and improved lactation facilities for breastfeeding mothers.

Just like UCSF responded to the data by taking action to correct salary inequities among men and women faculty, Ozer says that UCSF needs to respond to the concerns raised by survey respondents and use the data to assess faculty advancement and women’s opportunities for leadership roles.

“We need to continue to build upon and expand efforts to support all our UCSF faculty,” Ozer says. “We need to be thinking bigger and more broadly like we are doing in other areas at UCSF and have a mission-driven strategy to make UCSF an outstanding place for women.”

Based on the results of the first faculty climate survey in 2001, 10 recommendations were endorsed by former Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD. Among them was the formation of CCFL, which was specifically charged with addressing the other nine recommendations, as well as the broader charge of improving faculty life at UCSF.

The CCFL is making a difference: Six in 10 faculty respondents in this year’s survey report that they have participated in one or more CCFL programs, such as Faculty Development Day, mentoring or CORO leadership programs. The faculty-mentoring program, led by Associate Vice Provost Mitchell Feldman, MD, MPhil, is positively associated with almost every issued tested throughout the 2017 survey findings.

High Cost of Living

As expected, the faculty climate survey revealed a number of ongoing challenges associated with the high cost of living in the nine-county Bay Area. Fewer than half (43 percent) of faculty survey respondents expressed satisfaction with their incomes, a decline compared to 49 percent in 2001 and 50 percent in 2011 surveys. The survey indicates the perception that salaries are not competitive with other institutions of UCSF’s caliber and that financial assistance for housing is inadequate.

Facing one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States, many faculty members are commuting from farther distances outside San Francisco.

When asked about commuting to UCSF’s locations in San Francisco, faculty satisfaction showed the largest decline in this survey, with only 54 percent satisfied compared to 66 percent in both 2001 and 2011.

Nevertheless, only one in 10 faculty respondents indicated that he/she would prefer to work elsewhere. Half of the faculty respondents say they want to stay at UCSF for the remainder of their careers, but barriers that may contribute to them leaving UCSF include financial concerns, lack of flexible scheduling and the availability of part-time employment, according to survey results.

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