Faculty resignations in FY17 hit 10-year high

Faculty resignations trended higher in fiscal year 2017, according to an annual report provided this month to the state Board of Regents.

Forty-four tenured and tenure-track Iowa State faculty resigned in 2016-17, up from 24 the year before, Brenda Behling told the Professional and Scientific Council at its April 4 meeting. According to the report, it was the most faculty resignations in one year since 44 resigned in 2008.

More of the resignations than usual were from faculty who held full professor rank, said Behling, director of academic policy and personnel in the provost's office. That suggests they're being recruited away by other institutions, she said. Thirteen who resigned in FY17 were full professors, the most since 15 full professors resigned in 2007.

"The important thing is that we monitor this," Behling said.

The report noted the rate of faculty resignations compared to overall faculty numbers (3.2 percent) still fell well within the typical range for regent universities of 1 to 4 percent. Though neither Iowa nor Northern Iowa saw a large spike in the number of resignations in FY17, 3.1 percent of faculty at both institutions resigned during the year. 

Why they left 

Twenty-three (of 40 faculty invited) responded to a voluntary exit survey, with 65 percent saying they left for a better opportunity. Forty-three percent were dissatisfied with the environment in their department, and 30 percent were dissatisfied with the environment in their college. Another 30 percent said either location or the lack of accommodation for their spouse or partner played a role. Seventy percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied in general with the position they were leaving.

Only five faculty, 22 percent of respondents, cited salary competitiveness as a reason for resigning, though 44 percent said their new position would pay "much higher."

Regent universities don't provide the board an annual report with similar information on staff but, responding to a question from a council member, university human resources benefits director Ed Holland said he would research resignation rates among staff.

Faculty resignations usually don't lead to the elimination of P&S positions, Behling said. She told the council she can only recall one situation in the past five years when that happened.