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The Power of People

February 24, 2000

Scott Cowen

Last month, this space was devoted to an overview of the Tulane strategic plan, which concentrates its focus in four general areas of initiative: people, education and research, community, and resources and leadership.

This month, I'd like to spend some time addressing the first of those four areas, the one dealing with people. Put simply, this initiative is listed first because Tulane University can only be as good as the faculty and staff who work here. We must concentrate our efforts into not only attracting the best, but in keeping them.

Tulane should be a place where the top faculty and staff members come as their first choice. How can we achieve this? First, we must strengthen our overall compensation package, particularly for our most productive faculty and staff members. Within the next decade, I would like to see Tulane's faculty and staff compensation packages in the top 25 percent of appropriate benchmark groups.

We currently are working on a means of providing some sort of compensatory recognition for faculty and staff who have been particularly productive in the past year. We also must provide non-salary rewards and recognition for outstanding faculty and staff. For faculty members, we must harmonize our promotion and tenure policies across different disciplines so that a recognizable standard exists regardless of the academic area.

In turn, this standard will enable us to create a consistency of process and quality standards while still maintaining the flexibility to meet discipline-specific needs. This process is already under way: A Committee on Faculty Evaluation and Reward Systems was established some months ago, and the committee has just completed a report that will be reviewed by the University Senate in March.

We also must work toward creating new professorships and chairs that will be used to bring superior candidates onto the Tulane faculty. I would like to see us double the number of endowed professorships and chairs over the next 10 years, and fill many of those chairs with outside candidates. Whether the chairs are filled with external or internal candidates, they should be used as a means to increase and recognize quality rather than as a means of budget relief.

We also have set a goal for ourselves of increasing tenfold the number of faculty who are members of the national academies. In terms of staff development, we need to have a formal skill training and development program in place for staff. Productive staff members should be able to not only hone their skills at Tulane, but should be provided with means of career advancement. I would like to see Tulane achieve low turnover rates among our most productive staff members, and within the next decade to have at least 80 percent of our staff rank their jobs highly in terms of job satisfaction.

And, finally, diversity brings strength to the Tulane community, and we should continue to seek diversity among our faculty and staff members. As part of that effort, inclusive benefits policies should be adopted. We should strive to increase the proportion of minority tenure-track faculty and senior administrative staff to at least 10 percent of each group. The number is now approximately 2 percent.

If we can achieve these goals, by the year 2010 Tulane University's faculty and staff quality should ensure our place among the best American universities. A strong faculty and staff will help to attract the brightest students, who will in turn graduate to become strong community leaders and university supporters.

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