The Future of the Faculty Review Process Is Data-Driven

October 29, 2021 Watermark Insights

This academic year brings mounting pressure for administrators to respond to calls for accountability and transparency in how they offer faculty contracts, promotions, and tenure. Last year, the American Sociological Association called for higher education administrators to pause and reassess their faculty review processes after a year of unprecedented disruptions brought accelerated digital transformation to many colleges and universities. Faculty members are also paying more attention to long-term issues such as race and gender pay gaps, lack of diversity among tenured faculty, and vague review processes coupled with tedious reporting requirements. The time is right for administrators to reevaluate their faculty review processes.

However, this is a challenge when resources are often scattered across varying departments, and many organizations have yet to develop criteria for assessing achievements in newer innovations. To ensure that the review process is accurate, timely, and transparent, administrators must digitize and centralize faculty data. By investing in a platform that tracks all faculty activity, qualifications, and performance, administrators can develop firm metrics and processes for assessing faculty reviews. These investments also open the door for improved accreditation and grant funding processes through advanced reporting, streamlined data collection, and scalability.

When Oregon State University (OSU) invested in a centralized data solution through Watermark’s Faculty Success (formerly Digital Measures), they sought to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) reporting. As a land grant institution, OSU must report impact statements and civil rights demographics to the federal government each year in order to maintain grants. On the online interface of Faculty Success, administrators were able to add custom fields for faculty to easily input their DEI achievements. This led to a 5% increase in DEI reporting.

Collecting and analyzing DEI data will also help colleges like OSU answer to calls for diversity in the faculty journey and at the institutional level. Administrators can pull faculty demographic data reports to gain an accurate picture of factors that contribute to faculty inequality, such as salary disparities or gaps in representation. Lucas Turpin, who is the Information and Technology Director at OSU, described how Faculty Success made it easier for administrators to pull the data needed for a variety of reporting requirements: “There are different ways to slice and dice the information and leverage it centrally. We can share the best of what we do.”

Like OSU, Walden University invested in their faculty activity reporting solution, internally branded as Faculty Insight Tool (FIT), to relieve faculty of tedious reporting processes. As faculty members must regularly report on their activities to a variety of internal and external organizations – 8-12 times per year, on average – FIT became a single point of information where faculty data could be updated and accessed by all stakeholders.

As faculty became more proactive in inputting their degrees, awards, honors, public service, published works, and presentations, FIT also amassed the data that Walden University needed to support tailored reporting and communications needs, such as regional and professional accreditation reporting.

As OSU and Walden University have shown, centralizing and automating faculty activity data will help administrators and faculty alike save time on storing, updating, and accessing faculty data. More importantly, colleges and universities can move towards data-driven faculty review processes, paving the way to an organization that is more transparent, equitable, adaptable to change, and open to improvement.

To learn more about why accurately reporting faculty activity is vital to the success of higher education organizations, download The Essential Guide to Faculty Activity Reporting.

This article was originally published on Today's Modern Educator.

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