Roundtable event takes on issue of faculty retention

Faculty and academic leaders are invited to an upcoming roundtable event to discuss the challenges of faculty retention at the University of Oregon.

The Inclusive Retention Roundtable takes place from 9 to 11:30 a.m. April 8 in the Redwood Auditorium of the Erb Memorial Union.

A panel of university leaders will provide tools and strategies to improve faculty retention, and the Office of the Provost will use the event to collect data and feedback to guide its future outreach and practices.  

“We want to demystify as much as possible the challenges of retention and make the campus aware of the resources for retaining quality faculty,” said Troy Elias, vice provost for diversity and inclusion. 

Faculty retention is a challenge for all universities and includes multiple factors, Elias said, including colleague relations, the work environment, feeling supported and relationships with leadership. 

Anytime a faculty member voluntarily leaves a university, it is costly, and not just financially. Such turnover can reduce the number of courses offered to students, increase service responsibilities for other faculty members, decrease administrative efficiency and disrupt ongoing research.  

That’s why faculty retention is a priority at the UO, and why the Office of the Provost is actively engaged in efforts to improve faculty retention. 

“I want to reassure our faculty the university is attentive to the issue of retention and will work with colleagues to do as much as we can to retain all our faculty,” Elias said. 

Faculty members leave an institution for a variety of reasons, which research shows can be split into “pull factors” and “push factors.”  

Pull factors entice a faculty member to leave for another institution and include geographic preferences, spousal preferences, or an offer from a more prestigious university or academic unit. 

Push factors are those that drive faculty members away and include perceived lack of support, difficult work environment, lack of diversity and discrimination.  

At the same time, not everyone who leaves the university is unhappy, and not everyone who stays is happy, so causes can be difficult to pinpoint, Elias said. “People may not be able to exactly identify the reasons for their behavior.” 

The challenge for the UO is creating an environment where faculty members feel they belong and can thrive.  

It can be difficult if not impossible for the UO to compete for faculty who have non-academic offers from industry or offers from universities in more diverse locations or where faculty may have family, he said. And the confidential nature of employer-employee negotiations makes it difficult to reveal the lengths the UO goes to retain faculty, he said. 

A primary goal of the roundtable event is to demonstrate the university’s commitment to retain its faculty, including those who are Black, Indigenous and other people of color. 

“We colleagues who attend our roundtable to recognize that retention efforts happen at every level,” he said. “It’s not just the negotiations of the department chair or dean — literally everyone can contribute to creating a workplace where we can all take root and thrive.” 

—Tim Christie, Office of the Provost