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University of Iowa to poll employees on working conditions

Harreld calls survey 'a critical step in learning where we need to focus'

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IOWA CITY — University of Iowa employees next week will be invited to participate in a survey about working conditions across campus.

The confidential 20-question “Working at Iowa” survey will assess staff and faculty work engagement and employment experience by asking how much they agree or disagree with statements like, “I would recommend the UI to a friend seeking employment” and “The UI treats faculty and staff with respect.”

Employees can complete the online survey from Oct. 5-19. University Human Resources has conducted the poll periodically since 2006 — including in 2008, 2012, and most recently in 2014.

The university has used survey results to make short-term and long-term improvements to the work environment and help the institution achieve goals and initiatives related to student success, research and innovation, and service excellence.

UI President Bruce Harreld in a statement Thursday called the survey “a critical step in learning where we need to focus.”

“I hope everyone takes this opportunity to help,” he said.

The 2014 Working at Iowa survey saw a participation rate of 68 percent — 11,113 of the eligible 16,401 regular faculty and staff. That rate exceeded all previous surveys.

Sue Curry, dean of the UI College of Public Health, saw among the highest participation rates — with 83 percent of in her college’s employees taking the survey.

“I think employees can feel good about working in an organization that genuinely wants to know their opinions,” she said.

In 2014, the survey reported slight increases over time in employees who either agree or strongly agree with several statements, including that they regularly receive feedback on their work and that work-related conflicts are managed constructively.

When looking at the breakdown among different employee groups in 2014, faculty and professional and scientific typically agreed or strongly agreed with more statements than merit employees.

For example, nearly 60 percent of faculty and 54 percent of professional and scientific employees reported strongly agreeing that “my supervisor treats me with respect,” while 39 percent of merit employees did so.

Nearly 40 percent of faculty and 33 percent of professional and scientific employees agreed that “individuals in my unit are civil and respectful to each other,” while just 20 percent of merit employees strongly agreed with that statement.

Since the 2014 survey was administered, the university has seen a change in leadership. Former UI President Sally Mason retired in August 2015 and the Board of Regents in September announced former IBM executive Bruce Harreld would be succeeding her.

Harreld’s hire sparked controversy across campus, as many faculty, staff, and students had been critical of his candidacy and asked the board to choose one of the other three candidates. The UI Faculty Senate and UI Student Government issued votes of no-confidence in the board for its hire, and the national American Association of University Professors sanctioned the institution for its board’s disregard of shared governance values.

Some faculty have expressed concern the hire and the AAUP sanction would hurt the university’s ability to hire and retain faculty, staff, and students.

Since Harreld started last November, he’s been vocal about improving faculty pay, focusing on research and innovation, and increasing the university’s financial resources through innovation, efficiency, advocacy at the state level, and higher tuition rates.

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