MCG faculty morale was low in 2008

Administration was called unresponsive

 

Well before an Augusta Chronicle analysis found a hefty increase in administration salaries, a survey of Medical College of Georgia faculty found significant dissatisfaction with the administration.

Since the analysis earlier this month, sharp questions have been raised about administrative pay, particularly in light of mandatory furloughs and budget woes.

School officials say they are working on improving communication.

A survey of faculty in 2008 by Morehead Associates Inc., obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act, found "significantly unfavorable" views of the administration, "leading to significantly low satisfaction scores," according to an executive summary of the survey.

Though faculty generally expressed positive views of department leaders, chairmen and chairwomen, there was a perceived lack of responsiveness from the administration, according to the report.

"Communication between faculty and senior leadership is significantly unfavorable," the report said.

A task force on improving communication was one of the things to come out of the report. Among the various recommendations already implemented are regular addresses by deans and senior leaders that are more interactive, a Web site on budget challenges begun in late 2008 that contains more information for faculty, and the regular presence of senior leaders at school faculty senate meetings where they can answer questions, said Dr. Pamela P. Cook, the assistant dean in the School of Nursing and vice chairwoman of the University Faculty Senate.

"Faculty wanted to be communicated with," she said. "They wanted to have the opportunity for two-way dialogue. They wanted to have the opportunity of involvement."

The faculty-satisfaction survey "was really one moving part in this institution's commitment to improving processes of this campus," said Deborah L. Barshafsky, the vice president for strategic support at MCG. "And I really think it is a great example of the spirit of collaboration that exists between MCG administration and MCG faculty to improve both the culture and the operations of the institution. We recognize that only together will we make things better, and we're actively working to do that."

Some of that same dissatisfaction surfaced again, however, after The Chronicle's analysis of administrative salaries over the past five years. From 2005 to the present, there was a 53 percent increase in overall administration salaries, with some administrators nearly doubling their pay in that time.

An informal collection of faculty responses gathered by Cook, also obtained through the Open Records Act, contained a number of sharp questions and rebukes, albeit unattributed:

- "The message has been that MCG is in a budget crunch, all have been asked to do more with less, many have assumed extra roles and responsibilities related to employees leaving and not being re-hired and/or the hiring freeze without any salary adjustments or changes in effort," the report reads. "But now we find out there have been adjustments in administrators' salaries and one reason noted in the paper was a change in work responsibilities. How do these two equate?"

- "This has decreased trust in administration and decreased the belief in any messages going forward. Any gains in communication or trust with administration has been lost."

It also contained a number of questions:

- "Why has our administration grown way out of proportion to our faculty and student population? We have far too many vice-deans and vice-presidents. Growth in research is not a legitimate reason when our number of faculty has not grown."

Cook said some might have falsely believed the raises were given in the past year when they were spread out over time.

Addressing the issue at a faculty senate meeting earlier this month, interim MCG President James N. Thompson said: "I'm here to offer neither an apology nor a justification" for the increase, adding, "We have no argument with the facts that were in The Chronicle's (analysis)."

However, there were some things he wanted to clarify. The current administration includes administrators added as part of medical school expansion, he said.

"That is intentional growth that was funded with a special allocation from the Board of Regents and the Legislature to fund that specific initiative," Thompson said.

There were also some vacancies that would have thrown off the earlier figures, though Thompson did not say how many or what impact they would have had. When he asked for questions, none were forthcoming.

The school is undertaking a comprehensive review that will likely be completed after the arrival of new MCG President Ricardo Azziz, Thompson said. Azziz has said he plans his own investigation of the newspaper's findings.

The issue of fairness does seem to be weighing on the minds of MCG faculty.

At School of Medicine Dean D. Douglas Miller's "State of the School" address, senior research scientist Rhea-Beth Markowitz complained that staff cuts have left faculty to do a lot of their own secretarial work while "witnessing new faculty being brought in with these massive recruitment packages in order to get them to come here. But the current faculty are getting less and less, and morale is very low."

In a 21/2-minute response, Miller said he had discussed those issues with the faculty senate's executive committee and was formulating "very specific plans" to address them.

"Our goal is to be advocates of the faculty that are here, that have been here and that are coming and make sure that everybody is feeling that we are engaged in meeting their needs," Miller said.

Though she praised Thompson's handling of the interim duties, Cook said some improvements might come after Azziz arrives.

"With Dr. Azziz, he offers us hope and a new way of thinking and some greater collaboration, greater communication, greater alignment and a new day," she said. "I don't think it totally relies on one person. This is going to have to be a team. He knows we've all been working very hard to build the foundation and the building blocks for him to help move us forward. That's our goal. It is going to take us two to four years to get where we really want to be, which is nationally recognized. And we are going to get there."

Salaries of MCG administrators soar in 5 years