By Amanda Tonoli
Despite open forums and new committees formed after a 2016 climate survey that took sharp aim at leadership and communication, Youngstown State University’s 2017 survey results are lower in key areas.
About 46 percent of those surveyed at YSU said they are less positive about the workplace climate improving since the 2016 survey, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” Campus Climate Survey results.
In addition, 29 percent reported feeling less positive about senior leadership taking action based on the results of last year’s data.
The 2016 results concerned the YSU community to the point that open forums and new committees were devised to improve the campus climate.
The questions or statements on the survey were ranked “more” or “less positive” by employees. For example, “shared governance” and “senior leadership” were ranked as the two least-positive themes.
YSU Provost Martin Abraham said the lower scores aren’t negative, but merely more accurate.
The results this year differ from the results in 2016 due to a change in survey methods, the Chronicle’s report says.
“In 2016 only a sample of employees were surveyed, while in 2017 the survey included all full-time employees and a sample of part-time faculty. ... The results for 2017 reflect campus perceptions more accurately, rather than less positively, in comparison to the 2016 results,” the report notes.
Abraham reasoned respondents likely felt this way because administration didn’t have sufficient time to implement changes.
“We didn’t really start taking action to address the 2016 survey until the spring 2017 semester,” he said. “The survey went out in the first two weeks of April. ... Now, we’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about what to do because we have results showing we need to address the same problems.
“We’re going to get into and keep working on those issues.”
Abraham’s Brown Bag Lunch Series and President Jim Tressel’s town-hall meetings are two actions senior leadership took in the spring in response to the 2016 survey concerns with senior leadership.
Like in 2016, “shared governance” was a recurring theme ranked lowly among respondents.
The YSU Excellence Steering (YES) Committee recently put together a discussion draft to define shared governance and hopefully establish an efficient and effective way to put it into practice, said Chet Cooper, chairman of YSU’s Academic Senate.
Cooper said the YES Committee is working on getting the mere concept established.
“If we can address shared governance, we can address hopefully a lot of other issues along with mutual respect and communication,” Cooper said. “Working with the board of trustees, we hope to begin to lay a foundation of shared governance and all future policies and actions based upon a clear and accountable definition of shared governance.”
Both Cooper and Abraham agree that change will not happen overnight, but YSU is being set up for success with more accurate survey practices and specific written comments.
“It’s been a little bit [of] broad strokes in the past, but now we’re getting a little more specific,” Cooper said. “Now it’s time for all of us to take a look at the survey and start implementing some plans or strategies to address the concerns.”
Abraham hopes to see better results with the next survey.
“We will continue to move forward by actually doing things the survey indicated we need to do, and bettering areas that need to get better,” he said. “If we have a long-term effort and continuous improvement, I am hopeful when the survey result comes out this year and we get the results back a year from now we will start to see some kind of a turnabout.”
Abraham said he wants to continue doing the surveys in the meantime.
“You value what you measure,” he said. “We are committed to measuring improvement, and we want to continue to invest in this campus.”
The top five, most positive, themes that were the highest ranked in both surveys were “supervisors/department chairs,” “job satisfaction/support,” “pride,” “facilities” and “professional development.”