A new survey shows that the Utahns may think more highly of the University of Utah than the U. does of itself.
Some in the U. community have speculated about the state of the U.'s reputation in light of the continuing national controversy over cold-fusion research, last year's tension between U. President Chase N. Peterson and the faculty, the flap over the renaming of the U. Medical Center and the investigation into possible antitrust violations between the U. Medical Center and Primary Children's Medical Center.But the findings of a statewide telephone survey, conducted last May and June, during the height of the faculty-Peterson troubles, reveal that Utahns rank the U. highly when compared to both out-of-state and in-state peers.
"I think the (university) image among the citizens is very high," said Pamela Fogle, U. public relations director, in assessing the survey results, which were released at a faculty forum Tuesday.
She said if she had guessed the outcome before the survey, she wouldn't have believed the U. would grab such a favorable ranking.
In the $6,000 statewide survey, conducted by the U.'s Survey Research Center, the 609 respondents rated the U. as excellent in curriculum, social opportunities, opportunities for personal enrichment, athletics, graduate education, general reputation and faculty research. Respondents were not told that the U. was conducting the survey.
On 21 factors suggested in the survey as a measure of an institution's overall quality, "the U. is a leader among its peers," said Lois Haggard, director of the Survey Research Center.
The U. was first among the state's schools in terms of prestige and general reputation. Among five out-of-state institutions, Utahns placed the U. third in prestige/general reputation, behind the University of California at Los Angeles and University of Michigan but ahead of the Universities of Arizona, Iowa and Colorado.
The U.'s perceived weaknesses were focused on student experiences, such as faculty concern for student academic achievement, faculty concern for students generally, moral and ethical environment, quality of teaching, class size, freedom to express religious beliefs and caliber of students.
Survey respondents also said the U. was a school with high tuition.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Jerilyn McIntyre said those concerns are often voiced about any large, research university and are not peculiar to the U.
The survey also showed confusion about faculty roles and salaries. Only 10 percent of respondents believed that U. faculty are required to do research, while 87 percent believed they're strongly or somewhat encouraged to do so.
"They didn't have a clear concept about research and teaching," maybe thinking faculty only do research if it's something they enjoy, Fogle said.
On faculty salaries, 58 percent believed that U. faculty earn the same as other faculty around the state. Fogle said all respondents believed faculty increase their incomes with outside sources such as books, grants and speeches. About half said they believed that extra income totaled $5,000 or more annually.
Fogle and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jerilyn McIntyre said the survey pointed out that the U. needs to do a better job in communicating what it is and what it does in some areas.
McIntyre said the survey will be used for planning directions in research and teaching. Fogle said that the U. will probably also conduct two similar surveys - one of faculty and another of students.