Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

A Closer Look at Faculty Service: What Affects Participation on Committees?

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

A Closer Look at Faculty Service: What Affects Participation on Committees?

Article excerpt

Despite the role that institutional service plays in the tenure and promotion process, quantitative research in this area has focused on the percentage of time spent on service and administration (e.g., Bellas & Toutkoushian, 1999; Blackburn & Lawrence, 1995; Fair-weather, 1996; Finklestein, Seal, & Shuster, 1998; Singell & Lillydahl, 1996), with little research on specific aspects of faculty service. Committee work, one of the most important parts of faculty service, has been particularly neglected. Understanding who serves on committees is important, not only because committees are a central part of faculty service but also because faculty of color often report excess service on committees compared to the amount reported by White faculty (Adams, 2002; Baez, 2000; Laden & Hagedorn, 2000; Turner, 2002). This disparity is partly due to an institutional desire for diversity on some committees and to a feeling of obligation on the part of faculty of color to serve the needs of their racial and ethnic groups on campus (Tierney & Bensimon, 1996).

Yet because committee service is largely viewed as a minimal requirement to be met during the promotion process (as opposed to publications or grants), excess committee participation may harm the career prospects of minority faculty. Faculty of color and females are tenured at lower rates than Whites and males (Ginther & Hayes, 2003; Perna, 2001; Tack & Patitu, 1992), and excess committee service may be one of several reasons why female faculty and faculty of color are not proportionately represented in the higher ranks of the professoriate.

While there has been substantial research on committee service, most of the research in this area has been qualitative in nature and has focused on only a handful of institutions. This literature still leaves open the question as to how prevalent excess committee service is in American higher education. While quantitative studies using national samples of faculty have tried to answer this question, they usually rely on survey items with low validity, such as questions asking respondents to estimate the percentage of time spent on service activities. Thus, we still do not know if committee participation varies among females, faculty of color, and White male faculty, and if it does, to what extent it varies.

This article uses the 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) survey and regression models for count data to investigate committee participation by different faculty demographic groups. Because the NSOPF is a nationally representative sample of faculty, analyses based on these data allow us to draw conclusions about the prevalence of excess committee service in the American professoriate. More importantly, the NSOPF survey asks faculty about their participation in curriculum, personnel, and governance committees, allowing for a more detailed understanding of faculty committee service. The paper examines different types of committee service across Carnegie types and seeks to answer four questions:

1. Do rates of committee participation differ by type of committee and institution?

2. Controlling for other factors, are females and faculty of color participating at higher rates on lower-profile curriculum committees?

3. Controlling for other factors, are females and faculty of color participating at lower rates on higher-profile personnel and governance committees?

4. Controlling for other factors, do females and faculty of color spend more time on committee work than White male faculty spend?

Literature Review

Scholars have proposed two reasons why females and faculty of color might perform more institutional service than their male and White counterparts. First, these faculty become more involved because of institutional pressures. Institutions seek out females and faculty of color to ensure diversity in the faculty governance process; given their minority status in many institutions and academic fields, these faculty end up serving on more committees than usual. …

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