Barchi addresses faculty surveys
Strategic Planning Town Hall
University President Robert L. Barchi presented the results of faculty surveys conducted across the University’s three campuses and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey yesterday at the second Strategic Planning Town Hall on the New Brunswick campus.
The University sent out 15,000 to 20,000 surveys asking for input on the Strategic Plan and analyzed two-thirds of the response data so far.
The faculty survey had a roughly 50 percent response rate with 50 percent return from Newark and New Brunswick and 46 percent from Camden.
“That’s unheard of,” Barchi said.
Every faculty group surveyed said the University needed a high level of change to reach the end goal of the strategic plan, he said.
Barchi said the response was encouraging because it indicated the University community cared about the institution’s future.
“We’re all on the same page,” he said.
According to Barchi, the responses show that faculty see research and teaching as the two most important aspects of the University’s mission. Regardless of whether the faculty thought research and teaching was more important, everybody said the University needs to do better, he said.
“It doesn’t diminish the importance of service, but the hierarchy of those three is the same in every of the groups we surveyed,” he said.
Respondents also said the University should take another look at how money is allocated.
Besides sending out faculty surveys, strategic planning officials went to 110 departments around the University and asked the deans questions about the University’s future to tease out qualitative responses. Each department then discussed the answers in-house and supplied a 250-word response.
Strategic planning officials then pulled out common themes from department answers, which, according to Barchi, confirmed their aspirations to be one of the most comprehensive, research-intensive institutions in the nation.
“You shouldn’t expect that every comment is going to be [directly] incorporated, but every comment is read and used,” he said.
The secondary faculty response indicated that the University needs to improve its physical infrastructure and better coordinate across departments, schools and campuses.
The University can leverage diversity in its campuses, students and research as well as its extensive network of 400,000 living alumni, while also capitalizing on its location near one of the world’s major metropolitan hubs, Barchi said.
“This is a huge asset that you don’t get at [the] University of Iowa,” he said.
Other responders voiced concern that the UMDNJ merger would absorb the University’s attention and resources or reduce its strength in other academic areas such as the arts.
People are concerned that the attention to generating revenue will reduce educational priorities and values, he said.
According to Barchi, the concerns are relevant because the University needs to balance its responsibility to students and faculty with the need to generate revenue.
“Everyone recognizes that we want to raise the level of excellence in the institution,” he said. “We don’t want to lose one when we’re trying to get the other. And we’re certainly not going to go for excellence by doing away with one.”
Barchi said UMDNJ faculty members are latecomers to the strategic planning process because University officials could not visit the campus and interview professors before the merger was finalized.
But once the merger became definite, the University brought in the faculty on discussions and have since included them in surveys and interviews, he said.
The University’s strategic plan will play an active role in measuring the direction and will be a dynamic document, changing with the University’s circumstances, Barchi said.
The final strategic plan will be released in September for review before the board finalizes it in October, Barchi said.
Barchi’s town halls average around 100 students, faculty and staff attending, said Patty Kastner, events coordinator. He will speak at the Rutgers-Newark campus in April.
Nancy Kranich, School of Communication and Information and librarian, said the more people participate in the strategic planning process, the more the plan will look like something everyone will get behind.
“I think what’s exciting about this moment for Rutgers is the opportunity for all of us to participate in a progress. ... It’s all about us shaping our future together, and to me that is exactly where the University needs to be and where the country needs to be.”
Frangy Pozo, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, brought up immigration issues to Barchi when the floor opened for question and answers.
“Hopefully we can work together to make sure that immigration issues are included to be a part of the plan,” she said.
In response, Barchi said the University would take more action in April.
“We really hope that some of the national legislation will move to the floor in April and we’re going to be asking the students to help us with letter writing campaigns that we will help to orchestrate,” Barchi said. “We’re going to be very public with op-ed pieces and editorials at that time.”