Faculty Question Benefits Survey’s Methodology, Results

Though the faculty voted twice nearly unanimously, administrators said this year that they were just waiting for the results of a year-old benefits survey to determine what faculty members actually wanted.

In February, it seemed a lot was riding on the results of the survey, which reportedly cost more than $60,000. Former UT spokesman Grant Donaldson said, “We are waiting to see how the faculty feels about this issue. They are the university.”

However, by later in the spring, those results were long overdue. Once they were presented, faculty members, a few of whom silently boycotted the presentation, said the survey’s methodology did little to provide a thorough understanding of DPB and why they are important to campus.

Dr. Bruce Friesen, professor of sociology, said the methodology of the survey was invalid, and “if not biased against domestic partners in intent, it was biased against them in its effect.”

The survey asked faculty and staff to choose between certain benefits (time off, domestic partner benefits, 401k contributions, health insurance, etc.). In a series of questions, employees were asked to rank three benefits by how important they personally were to the respective faculty member. The rankings were done with multiple combinations of benefits until the surveyor could determine which were the most important to the faculty at large.

Base pay, retirement savings, and healthcare were at the top of the list, and domestic partner benefits were barely on the radar.

Though few people ranked DPB high, faculty members from the former College of Arts and Sciences found DPB most important followed by staff members and then College of Business faculty. Also, non-tenured faculty found it slightly more important than tenured faculty. Not surprisingly, DPB were deemed most important by those unmarried and those without children.


Critics of the survey argue that married or unmarried professors without partners would almost never choose DPB over benefits they would be likely to use personally, especially those related to cash flow. Even several gay and lesbian professors have said their partners would likely be covered by their own employers, so even they would not choose DPB over other, more personally useful benefits.

Donna Popovich, Executive Director of UT Human Resources, said the survey reveals priorities.

“We care about the well being of the University community. Hence, the survey to identify specific concerns and to gain a broader understanding of what faculty and staff value most,” she wrote. “The survey results support the fact that the University has persistently addressed those needs as identified most important to faculty and staff: health care and retirement savings.”

Friesen, however, said the ranking choices presented to the faculty were vague and unrealistic, which made the results arbitrary.

“Some faculty (myself included) found ourselves switching criteria as we moved from question-block to question-block, since the myriad of rankings became overwhelming and confusing,” said Friesen. “This makes the findings both invalid and unreliable; not something on which to base university policy.”

Friesen noted that the survey did not incorporate into its design a distinction between two major thrusts of the issue: a community approach and a needs-based assessment of personal experiences.

While Popovich said the findings “indicated low importance” for DPB compared to other benefits, she said there were many other considerations that must be factored in.

Evan Chipouras, president of the faculty senate, said UT’s image and ethics are such considerations.


“Just because for all of us as individuals, we value other benefits more doesn’t mean domestic partner benefits aren’t important to the prestige and credibility of this institution,” Chipouras said.

Chipouras also compared it to environmental awareness, another contentious area between faculty and administration. He said in general that just because a company’s employees might hypothetically rank several goals ahead of a “green” workplace doesn’t mean the company shouldn’t be environmentally friendly.

He added that the DPB issue today is like racial equality was in the 1950s. When asked then how important civil rights were, white respondents might not have considered them important. However, today, the same person might take civil rights as a given. Ironically, UT historians have said the campus was late in being integrated.

Friesen said the administration’s reaction to DPB brings up other, more broad issues like shared governance at UT.

“A characteristic of an occupation characterized as a full profession is a degree of autonomy . . .Since benefits affect us all, collective input at the organizational level is critical to its effective functioning. Universities are . . . better off when the views of faculty are sought and respected.”

Related Articles: President and Faculty Battle Over Domestic Partner Benefits

Overview of Domestic Partner Benefits in South Florida Colleges

Editorial: Lack of Progressive Initiatives Leaves UT in a Time Warp

Students and Donor Support Domestic Partner Benefits, President’s Stance Still Unclear

Gay Donor/Alumnus Pushes Vaughn for Domestic Partner Benefits

Leave a Reply

Back To Top