The University of Iowa last year saw 90 faculty members resign, marking a 36 percent increase and qualifying as the most in one year at any of Iowa’s public universities since at least 2006.
While UI’s faculty resignations rose from 66 to 90 in the 2015 budget year, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa saw fewer resignations than in the previous year — dropping from 35 to 33 at ISU and from eight to seven at UNI, according to Board of Regents documents made public Tuesday.
Resignations at both ISU and UNI were below their annual averages of 36 and 16, respectively. UI’s 90 tally was 32 percent above its annual average of 68. And those resignations don’t include terminations, deaths, and retirements, according to Kevin Kregel, associate provost for UI faculty.
That means the 185 UI employees who took advantage of an Early Retirement Incentive Program offered last year in hopes of cutting costs and improving efficiency came in addition to the 90 employees who resigned.
Most of the UI resignations — 65, or 72 percent — occurred in the College of Medicine, according to regent documents. Kregel said that is reflective of that college’s “unique population.”
“It’s a reflection of what is going on in academic health care and in health care in general,” he said. “It’s a competitive market.”
College of Medicine faculty have different opportunities than some of the other faculty across campus — including going into private practice or working for government entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, Kregel said.
“Those are things we see listed in resignation reports,” he said.
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And, at the same time UI is losing College of Medicine employees, Kregel said the school has been hiring a lot of clinical-track faculty.
“I think (the turnover) is more a case of growth and the changing nature of this discipline right now,” he said.
Last week, UI Health Care announced plans to restructure its leadership of the College of Medicine, moving Jean Robillard into a dual role that has him overseeing both medical affairs and the medical college. Debra A. Schwinn, who had served as the college’s dean since November 2012, was appointed to a new position as associate vice president for medical affairs.
In a news release, Robillard — who served as vice president for medical affairs for more than eight years after first serving as dean of the College of Medicine — said the change was spurred by rapid changes in health care that has put pressure on the organization to adapt its existing infrastructure.
“We must become even more tightly aligned if we are to succeed in the face of so many environmental factors and be able to readily respond to opportunities,” said Robillard, who also served as interim UI president over the summer after former UI President Sally Mason’s retirement.
Kregel on Tuesday told The Gazette the increase in resignations did not play into the restructuring.
“I think there are a lot of different variables,” he said.
When employees resign, each regent university asks them to provide feedback through a survey, questionnaire, or exit interview. Last year, UI found nearly 46 percent of employees who completed a questionnaire listed the primary reason for leaving as accepting a position at another university.
UI respondents expressed the most dissatisfaction with compensation and the greatest satisfaction with the atmosphere at UI and in Iowa City and the university’s commitment to research.
The primary reasons cited by resigning faculty members at Iowa State were “dissatisfaction with the departmental environment, lack of perceived advancement opportunities, and lack of perceived partner accommodation opportunities,” according to regent documents.
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Salary and competitiveness also was cited by ISU respondents as a reason for resigning, with some indicating they had accepted a new position elsewhere that provides “a much higher salary.”
The majority of those who left UNI had accepted positions with another university, according to the regent report.
But — at UI and ISU — less than one third of the departing faculty completed the exit questionnaires or surveys, and Kregel said the universities are partnering to standardize a resignation questionnaire. The goal, he said, is to “increase our response rates and get more information to allow us to evaluate and pursue some measures for retention.”
Iowa’s regent universities also are considering establishing an Iowa Regional Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, which would function as a local chapter of the national consortium of more than 700 colleges, universities, hospitals, research labs, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. The group offers a database of higher education and related jobs and provides members with resources to “enhance their ability to recruit diverse and talented faculty, staff, and executives.”
“It’s an undertaking we are viewing as beneficial for recruitment,” Kregel said. “The three regent institutions are collaborating on this effort, and we think it’s going to be a huge success.”
University representatives are planning to discuss both the potential consortium and last year’s faculty resignations at next week’s Board of Regents meeting.