Faculty and the Strategic Work Plan
The first priority of the University of Florida is investment in its faculty. The university's success begins with the success of individual faculty members and teams of faculty. Department and college recognition, as well as the university's reputation, rest on these successes. The university will advance its status among the public universities of this nation only as the quality, size and research productivity of the faculty grow.
The keys to reaching these goals are full engagement of the faculty in the enterprise of the university, effective recruitment and retention of the best faculty and support for professional development to ensure the greatest return on faculty investment.
The University of Florida's student-faculty ratio, 21/1, places it third from last out of 120 institutions surveyed, according to the figures provided by US News and World Report in March 2007. This compares unfavorably with peer public AAU universities.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison and Ohio State University have a ratio of 13/1. The Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Illinois at Urbana, Michigan at Ann Arbor, California at Berkeley and Virginia at Charlottesville range from 14/1 to 15/1, and Texas at Austin is 18/1. Growth in the faculty is crucial to the University of Florida achieving its goals, for four reasons:
- The student-faculty ratio is a rough indicator of the resources put into the university's educational mission. Opportunities for students to work more closely with faculty and to receive mentoring by faculty are restricted by the university's high student-faculty ratio. To provide students an education competitive with that provided by the best public universities in the country, comparable resources must be put into their education.
- Faculty size is connected with the university's research productivity in several ways:
- More research is done by more faculty members
- A critical mass of faculty working in related areas is needed for many research projects and increases the research productivity of faculty over what they could achieve individually, and;
- The higher the student-faculty ratio, the more time faculty must spend in their roles as instructors as opposed to pursuing research and publication.
While any university must balance teaching and research, it is clear that the University of Florida's aspiration to be among the top ten public AAU universities is hampered by its relatively high student-faculty ratio.
- Faculty size is important for the success of interdisciplinary initiatives, which can be successful only if they can draw on strong disciplinary faculties. To the extent the university's core disciplines are weak relative to its peer institutions, the University of Florida will be at a competitive disadvantage with respect to developing and pursuing interdisciplinary initiatives.
- Increasing faculty size is crucial for the university's goal of increasing the strength of its graduate programs and the numbers of Ph.D. students that it trains. Graduate student mentoring is labor intensive; hence, an increase in the number of graduate students trained must be accompanied by an increase in faculty to train them.
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- Goal 2: Design and implement a program for increasing the number of faculty to achieve parity with top ten public AAU universities in those departments and colleges most critical to the University of Florida's core mission and academic reputation.
At the same time the university aims to increase the size of the faculty, it must also aim to increase the diversity of the faculty to provide the best teaching and research. The university's faculty members must represent excellent scholarship and teaching, reflect a variety of life experiences and perspectives and have the ability to foster multicultural skills and the appreciation of diversity in the university community through their research, teaching and mentoring.
The university's student body and faculty reflect many aspects of broad diversity, but the racial and gender aspects of such diversity have proven more difficult to achieve and are not yet adequate. Substantial improvements must be made to achieve the racial and gender aspects of the broad diversity needed in the faculty ranks.
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- Goal 3: Develop and implement a systematic strategy to improve the racial and gender aspects of broad faculty diversity that the University of Florida needs to achieve its educational mission.
Salaries and Benefits
The best faculty can be recruited and retained only if the university offers competitive salaries and benefits.
Current salaries at the University of Florida rank in the bottom quartile among AAU public universities and only around the median when adjusted for cost-of-living. The university's fringe benefits package also ranks just below the median for AAU public universities.
These circumstances must improve to ensure success in the recruitment and retention of talented faculty. The university has begun this improvement through the Salary Performance Plan for Professors and through internal salary enhancement initiatives. The past three years have seen 4-5% merit salary programs.
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- Goal 4: Raise faculty salaries to the mean of the top ten public AAU universities. Improve the university's fringe benefits package so that it is commensurate with those of top ten public AAU Quality of Life.
Quality of Life
The quality of life at the university and in Gainesville and the surrounding communities is also essential for effective recruitment and retention of faculty.
Faculty members express keen interest in how the university addresses their concerns about quality of life issues, and in particular, to what degree the university fosters a family-friendly environment. These issues arise in connection with child-care, employment of a spouse and partner benefits, among others.
The faculty survey identified numerous issues that should be addressed involving university policies related to climate. These results identify specific areas that need attention.
- Goal 5: Align the university's policies concerning quality of life issues with those at top ten public AAU universities. Improve the overall climate for faculty, with special attention to issues identified in the faculty survey.
It is also essential to recognize the importance of the city of Gainesville and surrounding counties to the future of the university. A vibrant, sustainable community with good schools, transportation and public safety will help attract and retain the best faculty. The university must work with the community across many dimensions to promote its development as a good place to live.
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- Goal 6: Work with the surrounding community and the city of Gainesville to improve the quality of life in the community and to ensure a vibrant, sustainable environment in which to live and work.
The university must not only hire the best faculty, it must foster an environment in which they can achieve their full potential in the academy as teachers, researchers and leaders. This is important not only because it will help to realize the greatest return on the university's investment in faculty, but also because it is a crucial component in retaining its best faculty and in recruiting the best new faculty.
Junior faculty must be supported in developing productive research programs and in achieving professional recognition for their work, as well as in developing their leadership and teaching skills. As they develop and establish a record of achievement, junior faculty need appropriate guidance to realize the goals set by departments, colleges and the university. The Faculty Senate has recommended policies for mentoring junior faculty and for a mid-term review to assist them as they move toward the tenure evaluation process.
The most important decisions made about faculty are those having to do with promotion and tenure: they are the principle means by which the quality of the institution is maintained and developed. Before awarding tenure, the university must be convinced that the faculty member will be a productive scholar, teacher and leader for the long term.
Faculty members should have an appropriate period of time to establish a record of achievements that reasonably predicts their success. The Faculty Senate has reviewed the university's promotion and tenure policies and has made a series of recommendations for their revision.
- Goal 7: Implement at department and college levels the Faculty Senate recommendations on tenure, promotion, mid-term review and mentoring.
Senior faculty must be encouraged to continue their development as teachers and graduate student mentors and also to continue their professional development through a competitive sabbatical program. The university's sabbatical program is not competitive with the best public universities either in number or in levels of support. This has two negative results.
First, an equally talented faculty will produce less research, fewer books and fewer interdisciplinary initiatives, and gain over the course of their careers less recognition than at a university with a better research leave program. Second, it puts the university at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting at both the junior and senior levels and in retaining faculty recruited by universities with better research leave programs.
- Goal 8: Increase the number of opportunities for sabbaticals and levels of support to align more closely with sabbatical programs at top ten public AAU universities.
In addition, the university must assist faculty members in obtaining national and international recognition and membership in national and international academies. The university is proud to have a number of faculty members holding such membership, but not all faculty worthy of these honors have been recognized to date. Both faculty and administrators should highlight the exceptional work of colleagues in meetings and publications and should nominate them for appropriate awards and recognitions.
The university has created several internal awards and titles that recognize outstanding achievements. These include the title of Distinguished Professor, the Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, the University of Florida Research Professor awards, Teacher of the Year awards, Doctoral Mentoring awards and the Teacher-Scholar of the Year award.
Through the University of Florida Foundation, the university has initiated a $150 million campaign to enhance the scholarly environment and to foster creative work of the faculty. This faculty challenge campaign will help to provide endowed chairs, research funds, graduate student support and modern teaching technologies to enable faculty to produce leading research and to prepare the next generation of the nation's leaders.
- Goal 9: Develop strategies to recognize and reward, internally and externally, faculty who have demonstrated outstanding achievement, including strategies to increase faculty membership in national and international academies.
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- Goal 10: Complete the $150 million Faculty Challenge Campaign.
Postdoctoral Fellows and Associates
Postdoctoral fellows and associates are significant contributors to research and teaching and play a critical role in the university. In order to compete nationally and internationally for the best possible candidates, postdoctoral fellows and associates need competitive salaries, benefits, office space, professional development opportunities and other support services.
- Goal 11: Provide postdoctoral fellows and associates with salaries, benefits, office space, professional development opportunities and other support services commensurate with those at top ten public AAU universities.
The President's Strategic Work Plan
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