Journal of Nursing Education

Participation of Nursing Faculty in University Governance

Aida A Bahrawy, EdD, RN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

It has been suggested that faculty participation in governance in American colleges is low, and that faculty in schools of nursing are particularly unlikely to be involved in governance activities. This study was designed to determine actual and ideal levels of nursing faculty participation in five areas of governance: academic, student, personnel, public, and financial affairs. A survey of nursing faculty suggested that they were involved substantially in academic affairs, but less involved in the other areas of governance. Generally, the faculty indicated satisfaction with their high level of participation in academic affairs, and with their lower level of participation in student affairs, personnel affairs, and public affairs; the faculty did indicate dissatisfaction with their low level of participation in financial affairs.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

It has been suggested that faculty participation in governance in American colleges is low, and that faculty in schools of nursing are particularly unlikely to be involved in governance activities. This study was designed to determine actual and ideal levels of nursing faculty participation in five areas of governance: academic, student, personnel, public, and financial affairs. A survey of nursing faculty suggested that they were involved substantially in academic affairs, but less involved in the other areas of governance. Generally, the faculty indicated satisfaction with their high level of participation in academic affairs, and with their lower level of participation in student affairs, personnel affairs, and public affairs; the faculty did indicate dissatisfaction with their low level of participation in financial affairs.

Introduction

Governance is the process of decision-making in academic institutions. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) (1966, 1976) has advocated faculty participation in governance and shared authority at all decision-making levels. Coch and French (1948) and Heilman and Hornstein (1982) have suggested that participation in decision-making on the part of professional employees increases morale, raises productivity, and reduces resistance to change.

Despite the desirability of faculty participation in governance, Baldridge (1982) has suggested that actual faculty involvement is minimal. Baldridge, Curtís, Ecker, and Riley (1978) noted that levels of participation in university governance vary widely depending on the type of institution and the academic discipline of the faculty member. It has been suggested that faculty in collegiate schools of nursing are especially unlikely to participate in governance activities because of heavy instructional workloads (Solomons, Jordison, & Powell, 1980), a lack of professional socialization to the role of the faculty member (Mauksch, 1982), and a lack of supportive collégial relationships among nursing faculty (Beyer, 1981; Beyer & Marshall, 1981).

Limited participation in governance on the part of nursing faculty is critical in periods of financial distress and declining enrollment. Nursing programs may be viewed as targets for elimination because of their high cost of operation and cutbacks in federal funding. Conway (1983) has suggested that it is essential for nursing faculty to be involved in the debates over "resource allocation, student markets, innovative programs to attract nontraditional students, and educational goals* (p. 4). Also, Juhl's (1989) investigation indicated that there is greater satisfaction when influence in decision-making is high. Defending the interests of nursing and identifying and developing alternative sources of funding would appear to require nursing faculty participation in governance activities. Moreover, it is advocated that high faculty participation be maintained in times of reduction of resources; indeed, a study of findings revealed that when decisions were made in relation to faculty and program terminations, faculty morale declined statistically even though faculty participation in decision-making was increased. Thus, an assumption can be made that lesser participation may reduce satisfaction and create morale difficulties (Williams, Olswang, & Hargett, 1986).

In view of the importance of nursing faculty participation in governance, it is necessary for the profession to have empirical data relevant to the degree to which nursing faculty are actually involved in governance. Also of interest is the degree to which nursing faculty are satisfied or dissatisfied with their level of participation. If nursing faculty participation in governance is indeed low, it would be important to know whether limited participation results from disinterest on the part of the faculty, or whether faculty members desire greater participation but feel that access is denied.

Purpose

This survey research was designed to determine the extent to which nursing faculty in baccalaureate schools of nursing participate in governance in five areas: academic affairs, student affairs, personnel affairs, public affairs, and financial affairs. Also measured were the responding faculty members' perceptions of their ideal level of participation in each of the areas of governance. In addition, the faculty were asked to indicate their level of satisfaction with their actual participation in each area of governance.

Thus, the study was designed to allow a comparison of actual levels of participation to ideal levels of participation in each area, and to determine the faculty's satisfaction with their participation in governance.

Method

Sample

The sample consisted of 294 nursing faculty employed full-time in baccalaureate nursing programs in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The sample size exceeded that required to achieve a power of .80 for t tests and tests for the significance of Pearson's correlations, given a medium effect size, a nondirectional hypothesis, and the .05 level of significance.

The published list of baccalaureate nursing programs accredited by the National League for Nursing (NLN) was used to obtain a list of all the accredited programs in the three states. Full-time faculty members at the rank of assistant, associate, and professor at each of the NLNaccredited baccalaureate programs received the survey instrument, along with a cover letter, a stamped selfaddressed envelope, and a follow-up postcard. The postcard was used to indicate to the investigator who had responded. The postcard was returned at the same time as the completed survey, but was mailed separately. The postcard identified the respondent, but the survey itself contained no identifying information. In this way the respondents were assured that their responses would be anonymous, but the investigator could make follow-up mailings to nonrespondents. Two follow-up mailings were made. The final 294 respondents were 46% of the total population of faculty members surveyed.

The obtained sample was 98.3% female. The majority (58.2%) were assistant professors, with 30.5% associate professors, and 11.2% full professors. Fifty-nine percent were tenured. Forty-six percent of the respondents indicated their highest degree was a master's degree, and 31.3% held doctorates. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents were aged 40 or older.

Instrument

The survey instrument was constructed to elicit faculty perceptions of their actual and ideal levels of participation in 32 specific areas of governance representing the five general areas noted in the purpose section of this report.

Within the area of academic affairs, respondents rated their actual and ideal participation in decisions on (1) curriculum design, (2) course content, (3) degree requirements, (4) student admissions, (5) student evaluations, (6) teaching loads, (7) enrollment levels, (8) new programs, (9) types of degrees offered, and (10) program advisement.

Within the area of student affairs, the faculty rated their participation with respect to (11) academic discipline, (12) student government, (13) counseling, (14) residential life, (15) extracurricular activities, (16) commuter needs, and (17) financial aid policies.

With respect to personnel decisions, they rated their input regarding (18) appointments, (19) reappointments or nonrenewals, (20) promotions, (21) tenure, and (22) selection of heads of departments and the head of the nursing school.

Under the heading of public affairs were interactions with (23) other educational institutions, (24) accrediting agencies, (25) health care facilities, (26) professional organizations, (27) government organizations, and (28) community agencies.

Finally, under the heading of financial affairs were (29) short-range budget plans, (30) long-range budget plans, (31) tuition levels, and (32) faculty salary scales.

The responding faculty rated each of these specific areas of decision-making about both actual and ideal levels of participation on a five-point scale with response options representing increasing levels of participation from none (1), discussion (2), consultation (3), joint action (4), to determination (5). The instrument was adapted from the Faculty Participation Questionnaire, developed by the AAUP and used in the study of Faculty Participation in Academic Governance conducted in 1970 and repeated by the Academic Collective Bargaining Information Service (ACBIS) in 1977.

The levels of participation were defined for respondents in the instructions as follows:

* None - There is no faculty participation,

* Discussion - There is only an informal expression of opinion from faculty or from individual faculty members, or a formal expression of opinion from a committee selected by the administration,

Table

TABLE 1Frequency Distributions of Nursing Faculty Perceptions of Actual Participation in Academic Affairs

TABLE 1

Frequency Distributions of Nursing Faculty Perceptions of Actual Participation in Academic Affairs

* Consultation - Formal procedure or established practice provides for the presentation of faculty judgment by recommendation, vote, or other means sufficient to record the faculty position. Expression of faculty judgment must be timely enough to affect decision under consideration.

* Joint action - Formal agreement by both the faculty and administration is required for formal action or policy determination. Action can be negated by a veto by either party. Simultaneous action is not required; the two parties should act within a reasonable time interval. In no case should the interval be longer than an academic year.

* Determination - Final authority for the particular policy or action rests with the faculty or its authorized representatives. Other approvals are only pro forma.

Responses to each of the 32 specific areas were analyzed individually, and responses to items within each of the five areas of governance were averaged to obtain scale scores representing each area. The instrument was validated by a panel of four experts on academic governance, who indicated that the items were relevant to the constructs being measured and that the items were grouped appropriately into the five areas of governance. Reliability coefficients (alphas) for the ten scales (five actual and five ideal) based on a pilot sample of 57 faculty ranged from .82 to .94, and the corresponding coefficients for the actual research sample ranged from .81 to .92.

Respondents rated their level of satisfaction with their perceived actual participation in each of the five areas of governance. These ratings were on a six-point Likert-type scales with responses ranging from very dissatisfied (1) to very satisfied (6). Respondents also completed a brief demographic and background information questionnaire.

Results

Table 1 presents the frequency distributions of faculty perceptions of their actual participation in governance in the 10 academic affairs areas. These data indicate substantial participation. In four of the 10 areas the modal response was determination (curriculum design, couree content, student evaluations, and program advisement). In five other areas, the modal response was joint action (degree requirements, student admissions, teaching loads, new programs, and types of degree). The only area within this group where most faculty did not feel that they had substantial input was that of enrollment levels.

Table 2 presents the frequency distributions of faculty perceptions of their actual participation in the 22 areas grouped under the headings of student affairs, personnel affairs, public affairs, and financial affairs. The data in this table make it clear that the faculty believe their participation is lower in these other areas of governance. In only 3 of the 22 areas was the modal response determination. Within student affairs, participation in governance with respect to counseling was rated as determination by 25.4% of the respondents and was rated as joint action by an equal number of faculty. Within the area of public affairs, determination was the modal response with respect to interactions with professional and community organizations. Within student affairs, the modal response category was joint action for academic discipline. Thus, in only two of the seven areas within student affairs did the faculty generally consider their participation as extensive as joint action or determination.

Within personnel affairs, the modal response was joint action in four of the five areas (appointments, reappointments of nonrenewal, promotions, and tenure). In the fifth area, selection of heads of departments and the school of nursing, the modal response was consultation.

Table

TABLE 2Frequency Distributions on Nursing Faculty Perceptions of Actual Participation in Student, Personnel, Public, and Financial Affairs

TABLE 2

Frequency Distributions on Nursing Faculty Perceptions of Actual Participation in Student, Personnel, Public, and Financial Affairs

With respect to public affairs, the modal response was joint action in the areas of interactions with accrediting agencies, health care facilities, and government organizations. The modal response was discussion with respect to interactions with other educational institutions.

The faculty perceived their participation in governance as lowest in financial affairs. In each of the four specific areas within this category, the modal response was none.

Scale scores were calculated representing perceived actual and ideal participation in governance in each of the five areas, and correlated sample t tests were carried out to determine whether actual and ideal levels of participation differed significantly. The results of these tests are presented in Table 3. In interpreting this table, note that the theoretical range of the scale scores is from 1, signifying no participation, to 5, signifying determination. The tests indicated that the faculty should participate more than they actually do in all five areas. In most areas the mean difference between actual and ideal participation was on the order of one standard deviation. In the area of financial affairs the difference was closer to two standard deviations.

Table

TABLE 3Actual Versus Ideal Levels of Participation in Five Areas of Governance

TABLE 3

Actual Versus Ideal Levels of Participation in Five Areas of Governance

Table

TABLE 4Frequency Distributions of Nursing Faculty Ratings of Satisfaction With Perceived Actual Participation

TABLE 4

Frequency Distributions of Nursing Faculty Ratings of Satisfaction With Perceived Actual Participation

Respondents also were asked to indicate on six-point Likert-type scales their degree of satisfaction with their level of participation in each of the five areas of governance. Table 4 presents the frequency distributions of responses to these satisfaction items. They have been collapsed to three categories for convenience. These data show that in four of the five areas (academic affairs, student affairs, personnel affairs, and public affairs), the modal response was either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied. Even though the faculty believed their participation should be higher ideally than it actually was, they were nevertheless generally satisfied. In financial affairs, however, they were not typically satisfied. Here the modal response was either very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied.

Discussion

The findings indicated that nursing faculty view themselves as having rather substantial participation in governance in the area of academic affairs. They believe their participation is somewhat lower in the areas of public and personnel affairs, quite low in the area of student affairs, and virtually nonexistent in the area of financial affairs. Although they believe that ideally their participation should be greater than it is in all five areas, the only area in which they are really dissatisfied with their level of participation is the area of financial affairs.

These results are in agreement with those of Armstrong (1981) who also reported that faculty perceived themselves as having considerable participation in academic affairs and public affairs, more limited participation in the areas of student affairs and personnel affairs, and very limited participation in financial affairs. Also, the results of this study support those of the 1970 AAUP study, which indicated faculty having the greatest influence over academic affairs (joint action), less influence over personnel affairs (consultation), and least influence in administrative affairs (discussion or none) (AAUP, 1971).

The observed discrepancies between actual and ideal levels of participation are consistent with results reported by Maniero (1976). The faculty believe that participation in academic affairs should be at the level of determination. In personnel affairs, public affairs, and financial affairs, faculty members generally considered joint action to be the appropriate level of participation in governance. But, in student affairs, they consider consultation a more appropriate form of participation, with the exception of the areas of academic discipline and counseling, where they considered a greater role in decision-making to be appropriate.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study is that the faculty were dissatisfied only with their level of participation in financial affairs. These results are in agreement with those of Kennedy (1979), who found that faculty were generally satisfied with their participation in governance. The results are contrary to those of Dykes (1968) who reported that the majority of faculty were dissatisfied with their small role in participation. Grandjean, Aiken, and Bonjean (1976) also found nursing faculty to be dissatisfied with their lack of participation in decision-making.

These findings may be interpreted as indicating relatively little motivation on the part of faculty to increase their role in governance, except with respect to financial affairs. The faculty recognize that in an ideal world they should participate more than they do, but the world is not necessarily ideal and they have other obligations. Therefore, they are satisfied with a less than ideal level of participation in most areas. They are dissatisfied only in the area of finance, where they see themselves as having no input at all.

This may suggest that participation in governance may be increased only through active efforts by the profession to convince faculty of the importance of this role and to provide incentives for participation. Participation in governance is essential in these times when colleges and universities are faced with difficult financial problems as they cope with retrenchment in the 1990s: reorganization, reallocation, and education (Chabotar & Honan, 1990). Further research is necessary to determine the factors that promote or inhibit participation on the part of individual faculty members.

References

  • American Association of University Professors. (1966, Winter). Statement on government of colleges and universities. American Association of University Professors Bulletin, 52, 375-379.
  • American Association of University Professors. (1971, Spring). Report of the survey subcommittee of committee T. American Association of University Professors Bulletin, 57, 68-124.
  • American Association of University Professors. (1976, Winter). The role of faculty in budgetary and salary matters. American Association of University Professors Bulletin, 62, 379-381.
  • Armstrong, M-R. (1981). Faculty participation in governance and collective bargaining: A study of the "Yeshiva" model of academic governance applied to selected Florida public community colleges and universities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Florida State University.
  • Baldridge, J.V. (1982). Shared governance: A fable about the lost magic kingdom. Academe, 68, 12-15.
  • Baldridge, J.V., Curtís, D.V., Ecker, G., & Rüey, G.L. (1978). Policy making and effective leadership. San Francisco: JosseyBass.
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  • Beyer, J.E., & Marshall, J. (1981). The interpersonal dimension of collegiality. Nursing Outlook, 29, 662-665.
  • Chabotar, K.J., & Honan, J.P. (1990). Coping with retrenchment. Change, 22, 28-34.
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  • Conway, M.E. (1983). The place of the professional school in the university. In M.E. Conway & O. Andruskiw (Eds.), Administrative theory and practice (pp. 3-23). Norwalk, CT: AppletonCentury-Crofts.
  • Dykes, A.R. (1968). Faculty participation in academic decision making. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
  • Grandjean, B.D., Aiken, L.H., & Bonjean, C.M. (1976). Professional autonomy and the work satisfaction of nursing educators. Nursing Research, 25, 216-221.
  • Heilman, M.E., & Hornstein, H.A. (1982). Managing human forces in organizations. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.
  • JuM, N. (1989). Formalization, control, and satisfaction in schools of nursing. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 11, 568-575.
  • Kennedy, Y. (1979). An analysis of faculty participation in governance in Alabama public junior colleges. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.
  • Maniero, J.G. (1976). Faculty perceptions regarding participation in college governance in selected independent colleges in southern California. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.
  • Mauksch, I. (1982). The socialization of nurse-faculty. Nurse Educator, 7, 7-10.
  • Solomons, H.C., Jordison, N.S., & Powell, S.R. (1980). How faculty members spend their time. Nursing Outlook 28, 160-165.
  • Williams, D., Olswang, S.G., & Hargett, G. (1986). A matter of degree: Faculty morale as a function of involvement in institutional decisions during times of financial distress. The Review of Higher Education, 9, 287-301.

TABLE 1

Frequency Distributions of Nursing Faculty Perceptions of Actual Participation in Academic Affairs

TABLE 2

Frequency Distributions on Nursing Faculty Perceptions of Actual Participation in Student, Personnel, Public, and Financial Affairs

TABLE 3

Actual Versus Ideal Levels of Participation in Five Areas of Governance

TABLE 4

Frequency Distributions of Nursing Faculty Ratings of Satisfaction With Perceived Actual Participation

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