Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Educations Strategic Imperative

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Austin , Andrea G. GAPPA is professor of higher education administration at Purdue University where she served previously as vice president for human relations. ANN E. TRICE is an independent consultant to colleges and universities and a former faculty member and administrator.

Results of a large meta-analysis reveal that women report more stressors than men across many life domains Davis et al. Age is also related to perceived stressors. Older people report significantly lower levels of daily hassles stressors minor stressors , such as getting stuck in traffic or running late for an appointment, than do younger people Aldwin, It is not clear whether older people experience fewer of these types of stressors or whether they are simply less bothered by such potentially annoying events.

Aldwin states that the latter interpretation may be most likely. Age may not be related to absolute amount of major stressors, such as death of a loved one or divorce; research results are inconsistent Aldwin, In addition, the psychological literature on stress and coping indicates systematic variation in how individuals cope with stress.

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  • In a meta-analysis on sex comparisons in coping, Tamres et al. Coping may also change with age, such that older adults may utilize more efficient coping mechanisms, those which conserve resources, appear to be better at regulating negative emotions, and may be less likely to appraise situations as highly stressful Aldwin, Therefore, we might expect that NTT experiences of stress and coping will vary based on these individual differences. The current study involves investigating perceived workplace stressors, perceived workplace harm, coping, organizational commitment and identification, and well-being outcomes related to these variables depression, anxiety, and stress among contingent faculty members.

    A first goal is to describe common stressors and coping mechanisms for contingent faculty.

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    We will also examine the degree of organizational commitment among contingent faculty, and investigate whether commitment correlates with age and gender, as shown in earlier research. Next, we will predict perceptions of workplace stressors and harm, depression, anxiety, and stress from general demographic variables, situational variables i.

    In predicting depression, anxiety, and stress, which were measured at time 2, we will utilize measures of harm, stressors, coping mechanisms, organizational commitment and organizational identification which were taken at time 1, in order to determine if these presumably stable personal qualities i. This last set of analyses will address the question: Does commitment buffer the effects of stressors and harm on depression, anxiety, and stress, as might be predicted from research on other types of workers, or will we find that among contingent faculty, organizational commitment fails to operate as a buffer?

    We predict the latter result, given that organizational commitment may operate as a protective factor only among those employees who feel job security in their positions. We solicited participants for an online two-part study on experiences of contingent faculty between October and April Solicitations were sent to four listservs: adj-l which focuses on adjunct faculty issues , the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

    All lecturers at a medium-sized public university in the United States were invited to participate. Additionally, the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy organization for contingent faculty, posted the first solicitation on their website. Prospective participants were told that, for the purposes of this survey, contingent faculty members were defined as any instructional or research faculty who work off the tenure track at institutions of higher education, such as lecturers, adjunct faculty, post-docs, and graduate students.

    The survey was through Google docs. Once at the Google docs website, participants gave their informed consent.

    Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty

    They provided an email so that we may send them a reminder email about participating in Part 2, and were asked to create a unique ID number so that we could match Part 1 and Part 2 surveys. Next, participants completed a series of questionnaire measures in the following order: organizational commitment, organizational identification, perceptions of stressors, perceptions of harm, coping, and a demographic information form. Immediately prior to the questionnaire about perception of stressors, participants were asked an open-ended question: Which aspects of your job do you find most stressful?

    If possible, list and describe at least two aspects.

    Additionally, participants were invited to make comments about the survey or anything else. Two to four months after participation in the Part 1 survey, between January and July of , participants received an email inviting them to complete the Part 2 survey. Participants completed the following questionnaire measures: perceptions of stressors, perceptions of harm, coping, depression, anxiety, and stress, organizational commitment, and organizational identification.

    Next, the participants were thanked, provided with the researchers' contact information, and were invited to enter their name, email address, and phone number if they would like to participate in the drawing. Lastly, the participants were brought to a debriefing page that explained that the study involved examining relationships between stress and coping strategies and contingent faculty health outcomes and workplace commitment. There were participants women, 67 men, and three who did not report a gender in the Part 1 survey.

    Demographic characteristics which are expressed as percentages of the sample e. Age of participants ranged from 24 to 85 with a mean of Among those who are married, most Paid hours of work per week varied widely, ranging from 2 to 60, with many reporting that they did not know the answer. Five percent did not respond to the question, 2. Nine percent of people did not respond to the question. Ninety participants 54 women, 35 men, and one who did not identify a gender participated in both the Part 1 and Part 2 surveys.

    Age ranged from 25 to 79 with a mean of Two percent did not respond, 3. If you work at more than one institution, respond to the items in regard to the institution about which you feel most positively. Total scale scores range from 7 to Allen and Meyer report an alpha of 0. Alphas in the current study were in the 0. The Organizational Identification Questionnaire OIQ; Mael and Ashforth, was used to measure organizational identification with a university where one is employed, in both the Part1 and Part 2 surveys.

    Total scale scores range from 6 to The CFSQ consists of five items which ask the following: whether overall stress level has changed since the economic downturn of , whether job security has decreased, whether income has decreased, whether workload has increased, and whether medical benefits were lost at some point since The Part 2 survey asked respondents to rate which of the same aspects of their work have changed since their completed the Part 1 survey and to rate the degree of change.

    Higher scores indicated more stress e. All variables ran from 0 to 1 such that total scores on the stressor scale ranged from 0 to 5. Alphas in the current study were 0. A factor analysis, using a Maximum Likelihood Analysis with direct oblimin rotation revealed that all stressor items loaded on a single factor. Scores on the Harm questionnaire range from 0 to A factor analysis using a Maximum Likelihood Analysis with direct oblimin rotation revealed that all harm items loaded on a single factor.

    The COPE scale includes 60 items; each scale is assessed by four items. Scores on each scale range from 4 to In the current study, alphas ranged in the 0. Each of the three scales Depression, Anxiety, and Stress consists of 14 items. Scores on each of the three scales range from 0 to Participants were asked to rate how much each of the items applied to them over the past week at work.

    Lovibond and Lovibond report alpha coefficients for the three scales ranging from 0.

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    Refer to Lovibond and Lovibond for validity data. In the current study, alphas of the three scales ranged from 0. This item was created as part of a five-item survey assessing reasons why faculty choose temporary work and was not originally written to specifically assess whether temporary faculty desire permanent positions; this explains why the item appears to be an indirect assessment of desire for a permanent position.

    As we began data analysis we determined that this item could be used to assess desire for a permanent position. The other four items of the survey were not utilized in the current study.


    In the Part 1 survey, participants were asked to answer the following open-ended question: Which aspects of your job do you find most stressful? To capture the content of these responses, one author and a graduate student created a coding taxonomy to classify participant responses into various categories. A graduate student coder, blind to study hypotheses, divided each of the participant responses into phrases, clauses, and sentences that expressed a distinct thought or idea; these constituted the text units for coding.

    Next, she coded each text unit for the presence of the themes captured by our coding taxonomy. If everything in the sentence is junk, code as junk. If parts are not junk, code each distinct idea separately, and do not code the rest of the sentence as junk.

    Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education's Strategic Imperative by Judith M. Gappa

    Any single idea can receive more than one code. Measures created from these codes reflect the proportion of the participants who mentioned a given theme in their response. Quantitative data analysis involved the following: We explored relationships between all study variables through Pearson correlations. Also, we conducted five standard multiple regressions, predicting the following variables: perceived harm, perceived stressors, depression, anxiety, and stress.

    Additionally, we conducted six multiple regressions to examine whether organizational commitment interacts with a perceived workplace harm and b perceived workplace stress in the prediction of depression, anxiety, and stress. All quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS version To correct for potential type I error due to the large number of analyses, alpha levels were set at 0. Means and standard deviations for commitment, identification, perceived stressors and harm, and COPE variables for the Part 1 survey. We are reporting correlations between variables from the Part 1 data set rather than from the combined data set because demographic variables were measured only in the Part 1 data set.

    The majority of variables that were measured in both the Part 1 and Part 2 surveys showed moderately high to high test—retest reliabilities in the combined data set. The variables which appeared in both surveys were commitment, identification, perceived stressors, perceived harm, and the COPE scales. Commitment and identification had test—retest reliabilities in the 0. The test—retest reliabilities for all COPE variables, with the exception of four were in the 0.

    The four exceptions were acceptance and suppression 0. The test—retest reliability for perceived harm was 0. Pearson correlations between demographic variables, commitment, identification, perceived harm, perceived stressors, and COPE variables. To examine the nature of stressors among contingent faculty in our sample, we looked first to the open-ended questions qualitative data in the Part 1 Survey, which asked participants to describe the most stressful aspects of their job.

    Next, we examined predictors of perceptions of harm and perceptions of workplace stressors. The results indicate that desire for a tenure track position, both identification and commitment, and several disengagement coping mechanisms are correlated with perceptions of both harm and stressors in the workplace.

    Next, we conducted two multiple regression analyses to determine which variables best predict perceived stressors and perceived harm. Each regression equation included the following variables as predictors: all demographic variables, identification, commitment, either perceived harm or perceived stressors the variable which was not the dependent variable for the particular equation , and coping mechanisms for which the Pearson correlations with the dependent variable were significant.

    Standard multiple regression analysis predicting perceived harm in the workplace. Results of one sample t -tests reveal some statistically significant differences between the current sample and Carver et al. Carver et al.