Discouraged by three years without pay raises, almost one-third of the University of Utah faculty members responding to a survey say they have sought other employment in the past year.

U. Provost James L. Clayton called the finding "very disturbing," although he thinks the university is stronger than ever in research, teaching, students and publications.But, Clayton also said, "I think the university is more fragile now than any time since the 30s or any other time in this century."

One-third of the respondents said they would leave the university if they had the opportunity.

The survey was conducted by the university's Salaries and Annuities Committee. About 52 percent of the 1,435 faculty members who received questionnaires responded. The survey was conducted last May, but its release was not made public because of fear it would fuel the tax initiative debate. Responses were anonymous.

Survey coordinator Dr. Dona L. Harris, associate professor in the department of family and preventative medicine, said the questionnaire responses also reflect overall faculty discouragement with the university's future.

"Words like bleak, grim, guarded, uncertain, dismal came out over and over again when they were describing the university's future," Harris said.

One faculty member wrote of the U.'s future: "Can only go down. This state does not deserve a first-class university, nor does it have the will to support one."

Salaries were listed as the faculty's number one concern - a finding that confirms what college presidents have been reporting to the regents for months.

One survey respondent wrote that he is leaving the U. with a $45,000 pay increase at an out-of-state institution.

"The public doesn't realize how easy it is for a member of a research university to leave. The vast majority come from out of state and they are in a national market, not a local market. We have people at such a high level of competence, but it would not be difficult for that to change if a large number left," Clayton said.

The provost thinks the information on salaries, despite its age, is still valid. In fact, faculty discontent over salaries may have increased when Gov. Norm Bangerter released his proposed budget last week, Clayton said.

The Bangerter budget plan recommends a pay raise of 3 percent, less than 4.5 percent inflation, and also decreases funding for benefits. Clayton said that faculty attitudes may have been tempered somewhat by the decisive defeat of the tax initiatives.

Nearly half of all respondents felt that morale in their departments is low, while 30 percent felt morale was high. Harris declined to specify which departments seemed to be having problems, saying she didn't want to compound the problem by publicly identifying them.

Also, 44 percent said they felt that the administration doesn't fairly represent the faculty to the legislature.

Clayton has asked for copies of all written comments so he and U. President Chase N. Peterson can read each one.

The survey also asked faculty to rank, in order of importance, why they remain at the U. The top five answers, in order, were geographical amenities, faculty colleagues, research interests, university environment, family reasons and overall satisfaction. Salaries ranked near the bottom of the listing.