2002 SPS Survey

I. Executive Summary


In February 2002 the Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee reported to the Faculty Senate that it had become “aware of allegations of serious SPS workplace issues” (Minutes of the February 6, 2002 Faculty Senate meeting). The Faculty Senate communicated the committee’s report to the University Council and strongly urged the UC to act. The University Council received the Faculty Senate’s communication at its February 13, 2002 meeting, and referred the matter to the Steering Committee. Commenting on the Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee’s report, SPS Council President Bev Espe noted that the SPS Council itself was “waiting to hear a little bit more as far as more specific examples” (Minutes of the February 13, 2002 meeting of the University Council).

At the April 4, 2002 meeting of the SPS Council, an ad hoc committee was formed to investigate the SPS workplace situation by means of a general survey of all SPS members. The committee members were Deborah Haliczer (SPS Division V), Dan House (SPS Division V), Cynthia Nelson (Center for Governmental Studies), and Michael Spires (SPS Division III; committee chair). The committee first met in April 2002 and began brainstorming issues and conceptualizing a design for the survey. The committee also looked at previous SPS-wide surveys, with an eye toward designing questions for the present survey so as to permit comparison and tracking of the responses over time. The committee’s goal was to have a survey in the hands of SPS members at some point in the fall semester 2002.

In the summer of 2002, the committee members met with University Ombudsman Tim Griffin. His input on the general nature of issues raised by SPS members with his office proved very helpful in designing appropriate questions for the survey. Consultations with Eric Hoffman (SPS Division III) were invaluable in making it possible to provide a secure, anonymous survey instrument via the web.

A draft of the survey instrument was presented to the SPS Council’s Executive Committee at its meeting on September 26, 2002. After addressing comments and suggestions raised at that meeting, the draft was presented to the full Council for its approval on October 3. The Council voted unanimously to approve the committee’s draft. After slight modifications by the survey committee, a revised draft was submitted to the Institutional Review Board, as required, on October 10. The IRB requested only a minor format change, and the survey was announced to all members of the SPS by means of an e-mail from SPS Council President Bev Espe on November 11, 2002. A follow-up reminder was sent on December 2, 2002.

Survey Dissemination and Response

This survey was conducted in November and December 2002. SPS Council President Bev Espe sent an e-mail to 782 SPS members inviting them to participate in the survey, which was available either as a web-based instrument or as a PDF file to be printed, filled out, and returned through campus mail. There were 213 surveys completed (189 web-based and 24 mail-in), for a 27 percent response rate.

Survey results can be affected by factors such as question order, wording, and interpretation, as well as by the length of the survey and the method of its administration. In addition, persons who completed questionnaires cannot be assumed to reflect the views of the NIU professional staff members who did not participate in this survey.

Summary of Survey Findings

Respondents felt most positively about their opportunities for professional development (52% responding always to questions in this category, and an additional 26% responding nearly always). The least positive/most unsatisfactory category was recognition, where only 18 percent of respondents on average said they always received recognition for their efforts, and 27 percent on average saying they did so nearly always.

Overall job satisfaction is high, with nearly 80 percent reporting being either very satisfied (32%) or somewhat satisfied (46%) with their jobs at Northern Illinois University. Respondents expressed the most satisfaction with the current university benefits (50% reported being somewhat satisfied with their benefits, and 32% reported being very satisfied with them). Respondents were least satisfied with their opportunities for advancement (14% saying they were very satisfied, and 21% somewhat satisfied) and with their current salaries (10% reported being very satisfied, and 28% somewhat satisfied).

Performance evaluations and supervisors’ expectations of employees also presented some concerns. While 68 percent of respondents reported receiving a yearly written evaluation (which is required by university regulations) always or nearly always, only 57 percent felt that criteria for job performance in their department were always (32%) or nearly always (25%) consistently applied for all employees. Only 55 percent reported regularly receiving timely feedback about their job performance from their supervisors (30% always, 25% nearly always, 21% sometimes, 17% rarely, 7% never).

As regards working conditions and job resources, respondents always (37%) or nearly always (40%) have the equipment and/or supplies needed to do their jobs effectively. Seventy-eight percent said their office’s interpersonal environment always (35%) or nearly always (43%) helped them perform effectively. The same number reported always (32%) or nearly always (46%) having the technical support they needed to be effective. Clerical support, however, was slightly less likely to be available, with 30 percent of respondents saying they had the clerical support they needed only sometimes (18%), rarely (10%), or not at all (2%).

Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported being treated with respect by their dean, director, or department chair always (52%) or nearly always (26%). Slightly more than 70 percent said their dean, director, or department chair always (38%) or nearly always (35%) treated staff members in their area in an equitable manner. Approximately half of the respondents reported being involved by their dean, director, or department chair in decision-making only sometimes (28%), rarely (15%), or not at all (6%). Just over half indicated that their dean, director, or department chair was only sometimes (31%), rarely (14%), or never (7%) effective in resolving problems in their area.

More than 80 percent of respondents said they could make use of their abilities in their job always (36%) or nearly always (47%), and just over 70 percent reported always (37%) or nearly always (34%) having decision-making authority consistent with their professions. But nearly 38 percent said they only sometimes had control over the amount of work they take on; an additional 16 percent said they only rarely did so, and 3 percent said they had no control at all over their work load.

Respondents were more likely to receive recognition for their efforts from their coworkers than from the administration of their department. Forty-seven percent said they always (18%) or nearly always (29%) received recognition from colleagues, but only 44 percent said they always (19%) or nearly always (25%) did so from their departmental administrators. More than half the respondents to both questions said that they received such recognition only sometimes, rarely, or not at all.

Of the 213 respondents completing a survey, 76 (or approximately 35.7 percent) reported having experienced a significant workplace issue or problem at NIU. The most prevalent problems reported were conflicts between an employee and a supervisor, and conflicts among co-workers. Of the 76, 60 took some kind of action in response to their workplace issue, and 28 (approximately 37%) reported being able to resolve the issue to their satisfaction.

The survey listed a number of campus resources available to individuals experiencing personal problems or workplace issues, and asked respondents to indicate those which they would personally contact or recommend to someone else experiencing a problem, and those which they had personally contacted. The relatively low level of awareness suggested by the responses (where the Employee Wellness and Assistance Program, the most recommended resource, received only 95 responses out of 213 completed surveys, or a 45 percent awareness rate) suggests that further education of SPS personnel about the resources available to them in the campus community would be fruitful.

This is particularly true of the Faculty Personnel Advisor, given the controversy that has recently arisen about the issue of SPS access to this resource. The FPA was the lowest-ranked campus resource in the survey, receiving only 22 responses for a 10 percent awareness rate, and only four of those 22 individuals had actually contacted the FPA.


The overwhelming majority of survey respondents hold full-time appointments (n=206, or 97 percent of respondents). The number of hours worked each week varied. The response with the highest frequency was 40 hours per week (n=45, or 21 percent), followed by 45 hours per week (n=36, or 17 percent), and then 50 hours per week (n=29, or 14 percent). Again, an overwhelming majority of respondents said that their job required them to spend time on work activities outside the usual work week (n=175, or 82 percent), and most respondents (n=124, or 58 percent) said that they did not receive release time during usual working hours for those activities.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents reported that they did not teach (n=156, or 73 percent) and had never applied for an internal promotion (n=154, or 72 percent). Two-thirds of respondents said that they had never received an internal promotion (n=143, or 67 percent). Just more than 40 percent of respondents have worked at NIU for five years or less (n=93, or 44 percent). The next most frequent response for length of employment was 6-10 years (n=39, or 18 percent). Approximately two-thirds of respondents (n=143, 67 percent) have held their current positions for five years or less, while only 5 percent (n=10) report having held their current positions for more than 20 years. Slightly more than half of respondents report being employed at NIU prior to holding their current job (n=115, 54 percent). A master’s degree is the most common educational credential held by survey respondents (n=107, 52 percent), followed by a bachelor’s degree (n=59, 29 percent), and a doctoral or professional degree (n=35, 17 percent).

Respondents to this survey were predominantly female (n=135, 63 percent). Respondents’ ages were more or less evenly distributed except in the under 30 category (n=23, 11 percent). Most respondents indicated an age in the range 40-49 (n=69, 32 percent), followed by the 50 or over category (n=61, 29 percent), and the remainder 30-39 (n=55, 26 percent). These survey figures are slightly different from the overall SPS demographic at NIU (55 percent female, 45 percent male, with the largest group aged 50 and over, and the next-largest group aged 30–39). Most respondents did not consider themselves members of racial or ethnic minority groups (89 percent responded no to this question). Of the respondents indicating identification with a racial or ethnic minority, half identified as African-American (n=7), 21 percent (n=3) as Hispanic, and 14 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander (n=2). One respondent was Native American, and one checked multiple categories.

II. Results

Figure 1 presents a summary of responses to the work environment topics, ranked from highest to lowest percentage of total positive responses. Professional development, consisting of 4 questions, received the highest percentage of always or nearly always responses.

Figure 1. Work Environment Topics: Summary Percentages

Bar chart
Percentage of "always" and "nearly always" responses to all questions in each of the categories.

More detail, with item responses within each of these topics is presented below. Percentages are reported as the percentage of valid responses to items.

Professional Development

Professional development was the first topic on the survey, and the topic receiving the highest percentage of positive responses. Figure 2 shows the percentage of responses in this category along with the percentage of responses to individual items ranked from high to low. The item in this category receiving the highest percentage of positive responses is receiving release time in order to travel for professional meetings and conferences. Although financial support for travel received the least number of positive responses, the majority of respondents indicated always or nearly always receiving financial support for professional travel.

Figure 2. Professional Development

Bar chart

Departmental Leadership and Communication

The majority of respondents reported their departmental leadership (defined in the survey as “dean/director/department chair”) always treats staff members with respect, and over three-fourths indicated either always or nearly always. Departmental leadership was least likely to be considered consistently effective in resolving problems and conflicts.

Figure 3. Departmental Leadership/Communication

Bar chart

Performance Expectations and Evaluation

The majority of respondents gave consistency ratings of either always or nearly always to each item in the performance expectation and evaluation category. The majority of respondents reported they always receive a yearly performance evaluation, with nearly 70 percent indicating they always or nearly always receive an evaluation.

Figure 4 Performance Expectations/Evaluation

Bar chart

Work Conditions and Resources

Three-fourths of the respondents gave consistency ratings of either always or nearly always to most items in the work conditions and resources category. The ratings were similar for the items in this category, and no item received a majority of always consistency ratings.

Figure 5. Work Conditions/Resources

Bar chart


Slightly less than one in five respondents reported always receiving recognition from their department administration; about the same percentage reported always receiving recognition from their coworkers. There were two other questions on recognition in the survey, asked in terms of level of agreement. Less than 1 in 10 of the respondents strongly agreed with the statement “I have the opportunity for advancement through internal promotion.” About 1 in 20 strongly agreed with the statement “My salary meets reasonable standards for the field I am in.”

Figure 6. Recognition

Bar chart

Professional Autonomy

Over three-fourths of the respondents indicated they always or nearly always are able to make use of their abilities in their job. No item received a majority responding always. The only item which a majority of respondents did not rate either always or nearly always was control over workload.

Figure 7. Professional Autonomy

Bar chart

Job Satisfaction

Overall, more than three-fourths of respondents are either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current job at NIU. In addition, the majority of respondents are either somewhat or very satisfied with the opportunity to provide service to the University community, the opportunity to provide community service, and with the current University benefits. Items that did not elicit a positive rating by the majority of respondents are the opportunity for advancement through internal promotion and current salary.

Figure 8. Job Satisfaction

Bar chart

Workplace Issues

Of the 213 respondents that completed a survey, 76 (35.7 percent) reported having had a significant workplace issue or problem at NIU. The most prevalent problems indicated were employee/supervisor conflicts and conflicts among co-workers. Of the 76, there were 60 who took some kind of action, and 28 who were able to resolve the issue to their satisfaction.

The survey included a series of questions about University resources, in which respondents could indicate whether they were aware of the resource, whether they would recommend the resource for resolving a workplace issue, and whether they have used this resource. The resource respondents reported using most often was their dean/director/or department chair (62 respondents stated they had contacted this individual for a workplace issue); the resource least used by respondents was the Faculty Personnel Advisor, with 4 respondents indicating they had contacted this individual.

Table 1. Resources of the University for Workplace Issues

Resource Would Recommend Have Contacted
Affirmative Action/Diversity Resources 80 17
Dean/director/department Chair 93 62
Division/College Administration 59 29
Employee Wellness and Assistance Program 95 54
Faculty Personnel Advisor 22 4
Human Resource Services 77 46
Office of the Ombudsman 83 28
University Resources for Women 66 15

This table shows the number of respondents who indicated they would themselves use or recommend a particular service for a workplace issue, and the number who indicated they had contacted that service.