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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 15, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Editorial: Faculty load survey results reflect flawed research

Questions of validity have been raised after the results of Ithaca College’s 2018 Faculty Service Load survey came out. According to the survey, faculty of color perceived they were doing more work than their white counterparts and female faculty reported doing slightly less work than male faculty. It’s been known for over a decade that underrepresented faculty members often take on more service labor than their white, male counterparts — like being on committees or acting as a mentor to students. Recently, the Faculty Council decided to produce a survey to measure if these anecdotes of service overload were happening at the college.

David Gondek, associate professor in the Department of Biology and a member of Faculty Council who presented the survey results, said the results are not a complete reflection of faculty workload and the inequities within it. The survey was only completed by less than 25 percent of the faculty. Additionally, Gondek said, the data could have been potentially skewed due to participants being unclear on how service hours were measured.

The fact that the college is investigating the disparities in the workload of female faculty and faculty of color is admirable and something we should confirm with data so that these anecdotal experiences gain legitimacy. However, the survey data is incomplete and nonrepresentative. As of now, the survey results are displaying findings we already know to not be true. While there is an obvious disparity between the work done by faculty of color compared to that of their white counterparts, the lack of a disparity between female and male faculty bodes poorly for the entire survey. The low numbers reported for the workload of women indicate false survey results, and that means the workload of faculty of color could be even heavier than what has been reported. Additionally, only 22 of the respondents were ethnically diverse; 95 were women. There are currently 732 faculty members at the college.

The survey results currently have no accuracy or accountability, and frankly, it was irresponsible to share widely with the council — especially because it could reinforce troubling narratives that women do not do more service work than men, when we know that is not true due to extensive anecdotal and statistical research on the subject. Responses only encompassing 25 percent of the college’s faculty are nowhere near representative and cannot possibly accurately reflect the full extent of inequity at the college. Without knowing the full extent of the inequity, however, the college is left at a standstill in which it cannot address or aid the issue and its employees.

Moving forward, the Faculty Council should consider how to improve its method of investigating disparities among the workload of faculty members. It should redo the survey, and this time, execute it responsibly. This is an issue that has been plaguing the college and academia as a whole for decades and requires the utmost seriousness in addressing.