UT professor authors study examining staff efficiency

Liz Farmer

On average, University faculty members generate more money than they make with their research and teaching, according to a UT professor who authored a study on faculty instructional and grant-based productivity.

The study analyzes UT System data by breaking faculty down into tenured and tenure-track professors, graduate students and other faculty. The study’s author, sociology professor and associate liberal arts dean Marc Musick, said the results are limited because productivity measurements can’t provide an accurate picture of all the work professors do, especially with the data provided by the UT System.

“The report shows that the faculty are productive, but we can be more productive,” Musick said.

Musick said the UT System data provided faculty salary, benefits, the number of hours faculty members teach and grant expenditures. He said this left out important factors in faculty productivity such as mentoring students.

“Think about how good they’d look if we added all of these things on top of it,” Musick said.

Earlier this semester, Musick released a report on four-year graduation rates that compared UT to other public research universities. The report found that UT ranked 13th out of 120 for six-year graduation rates and second for the number of faculty employed per public dollar. Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, analyzed the data and found that 80 percent of the faculty teach smaller and fewer classes and should increase their teaching loads.

Former UT System special adviser Rick O’Donnell analyzed the same data this summer after he was fired. His report found the University could save $573 million by eliminating 1,784 of 3,000 faculty members that he categorized as under-productive.

Musick said his report is meant to analyze overall faculty performance and does not break data into results for individual faculty members. The A&M System released a faculty productivity analysis last spring known as the “red and black report” that singled out individual faculty performance. The controversial report threatened A&M’s membership with the Association of American Universities, which is an organization of leading research universities.

“It can be broken down, but I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Musick said. “It doesn’t look at all things that faculty do to be productive.”

Musick said the UT System data contained errors that did not properly reflect faculty productivity, which is another reason the data should not be broken down to individual faculty members.

The UT System plans to implement a productivity dashboard that will provide real time snapshots of faculty productivity. Musick said he did not know how it could be done or what it will be used for.

“As we go forward we have to be careful about the data we’re collecting,” Musick said.