Release of Faculty-Productivity Data Roils U. of Texas

May 06, 2011

How much professors in the University of Texas system earn and how many courses and students they teach were parts of a vast data file that system officials compiled at the request of a newly formed task force on productivity and excellence and released publicly on Thursday. Professors immediately voiced concerns that the information would be used to incorrectly gauge their efficiency on the job.

However, system officials stressed that the data in the 821-page spreadsheet, which covers nine institutions, was in draft form and "is incomplete and has not yet been fully verified or cross referenced," according to a statement issued by Anthony P. de Bruyn, the system's director of public affairs. "In its present raw form, it cannot yield accurate analysis, interpretations, or conclusions."

UPDATE: U. of Texas Faculty Fret That Released Salary Data Is Misleading

SPREADSHEET: Download the U. of Texas system's faculty-productivity data

The university released the data in response to an open-records request from a local newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. In addition to salary information, course-enrollment numbers, and course loads, the system released data on how much grant money individual faculty members won in 2009-10, the average grade awarded by professors, how much time faculty members spent on research and teaching, and their average student evaluation score. However, for many of the professors listed, not every data point was complete.

With higher-education budgets under pressure, faculty productivity continues to be in the cross hairs. Lawmakers, in particular, are looking for evidence that professors are doing enough work to justify their salaries. Last year the Texas A&M University system released a controversial report, based on information similar to what the University of Texas released, that highlighted professors who did not generate enough money to cover what it cost their institutions to employ them. Most professors, however, were deemed cost-effective.

Although University of Texas officials emphasized that the data would not be used to produce a report like the one at Texas A&M, or to scrutinize faculty performance on an individual basis, professors were wary about how the data might be misconstrued by outsiders.

Dean P. Neikirk, chair of the University of Texas at Austin's Faculty Council, said it was likely that an analysis of just how "productive" individual faculty members were would surface soon.

"It's not like any of this information is new," said Mr. Neikirk, a professor of engineering. "It's pretty much all publicly available. But analyzing anyone's performance on simple metrics is a potentially dangerous thing to do."

The data will be analyzed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, along with the productivity task force, which will continue to work throughout the summer. Mr. de Bruyn said the analysis would allow the president of each campus in the system to "assess the strengths of institutional departments by campus and recommend adjustments as necessary."