MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XX No. 5
May / June 2008
Financing Undergraduate Education
MIT Faculty Survey: It's About Time
Berwick, Lee, and Orlin Elected to
FNL Editorial Board
Reconsidering the Value of Service to MIT
Confidentiality in Recruitment, Promotion, and Tenure Reviews
Provost Announces Faculty Renewal Program
Endowment Spending Policy at MIT
A New Approach to MIT's Financial Planning
A Primer on Indirect Costs
Changes in Engineering Education
Anthropologists Express Concern Over Government Plan to Support Military-Related Research in Universities
Reflections on Nominations and Elections for Faculty Officers and Commmittees at MIT
Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity: Research Team and Effort Launched
The Man I Killed; Lise
Creating a Culture of Communication: Assessing the Implementation of the Undergraduate Communication Requirement
The Vision Thing
Lerman Now Dean for Graduate Education
The Spellings Commission Backs Off
Who Should Be Allowed to Speak
at Faculty Meetings?
from the 2008 Faculty Survey: Reasonableness of Workload
from the 2008 Faculty Survey:
Satisfaction with . . .
from the 2008 Faculty Survey:
Sources of Stress
Printable Version

MIT Faculty Survey: It's About Time

Lydia Snover

“The only reason for time,” said Albert Einstein, “is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” At MIT, our faculty seem to be challenging Einstein’s observation by trying to do everything at once, at least according to the results of the 2008 Faculty Survey.

Time (or lack of it) is a major source of stress among MIT faculty. The lack of time to think and reflect and the lack of time for non-work activities are two of the top five stress-producers (see M.I.T. Numbers). In responding to this quality of life survey, faculty comments included:

  • “Time has become too scarce: time to think and write; time to spend with students; time to explore.”
  • “Too little time, too many responsibilities (for students and faculty alike). 'Drinking from a fire hose' is a nice phrase, but I don’t think anyone actually does drink from a fire hose.”
  • “Pace is too high (and this is coming from someone that likes a fast pace) resulting in too little time to reflect and think deeply about problems.”

In early 2008, MIT faculty and other instructional staff were invited to respond to this survey which asked about a broad range of issues including workload, work and personal stressors, pedagogy, work climate – especially within academic units – mentoring, and the tenure and promotion process. A majority of MIT faculty (69%) responded to the survey.

The survey incorporated a core set of questions that are also being used in similar surveys at other research universities including Harvard, Yale, Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Boston University. Comparative data will be available in the near future, and MIT faculty responses will also be compared with results from a similar survey administered in 2004.

Overall results reveal that MIT faculty are quite satisfied with their life at the Institute, as they are with their home lives as well. The problem arises when they try to integrate their work and personal lives (see chart).

A key element of the survey was a set of questions about tenure and promotion. As can be seen from the charts, as might be expected, there are sometimes significant differences between faculty perceptions of items valued in the tenure process and what they feel about the appropriateness of value placed.

Additional results are available at:

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