Update, 2 p.m.: Rick O'Donnell is not swayed by the arguments leveled against his recent faculty analysis by a University of Texas administrator.
In a statement, UT Provost Steven Leslie questioned O'Donnell's analysis because it included 3,968 faculty members when the number of full-time equivalent faculty is 2,493. O'Donnell said he was using the data provided by the system, which includes more than just full-time equivalent (or "FTE") faculty.
He noted that the data included 623 teaching assistant, and said that he left out 118 people "identified as non-instructional or incomplete data" as well as 275 individuals labeled as non-instructional administrators. He also said full- and part-time teachers were normalized in the analysis.
"FTE is a budgeting and accounting figure but that is not what was used in the revised and corrected data released by UT System, which was used in my analysis," O'Donnell said in an email. "A teacher may count as three-fifths of an FTE for accounting purposes but they are still one person."
Therefore, O'Donnell said, whether intentionally or unintentionally, Leslie's charge is inaccurate. "Whatever the motive," O'Donnell said, "it once again kept the university from having to actually address the fundamental question about quality and cost if a majority of the undergraduate credit hours are taught by low-ranking faculty."
UT officials declined to comment further.
When Rick O'Donnell, a controversial former adviser to the University of Texas System, released an analysis of faculty data from the University of Texas and Texas A&M, he anticipated that it might receive criticism.
He was right.
In the report, O'Donnell sorted faculty into five groups: dodgers (extremely low teaching loads and external research funding), coasters (low teaching loads and external research funding), sherpas (high teaching loads and low external research funding), pioneers (low teaching loads and high external research funding), and stars (highs in both categories).
One of the central messages, O'Donnell said, was that, “By even small increases in faculty teaching, they [the universities] could both save tremendous amounts of money and have a lot more students engaged with senior faculty.”
The characterizations were not well-received in the academic community. The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a bipartisan group of influential Texans formed out of concern for higher education proposals being promoted by Gov. Rick Perry and other organizations, issued a stern statement. In it, they referred to O'Donnell's categories as "name calling" and "new labels for old concepts, which have been previously rejected through analytical and knowledgable review."
"The data that the Boards of Regents of The University of Texas and Texas A&M Systems have made public is now being misused to diminish the national stature of our state's premiere public institutions," they said, calling on regents to stand with the universities and push for a "higher standard" of conversation.
The response from UT was similarly unenthused. UT Provost Steven Leslie issued a statement calling O'Donnell's analysis "another unfortunate misrepresentation of University of Texas faculty."
"The report states in its first table the number of faculty at UT Austin is 3,968," Leslie noted. "The actual number of full-time equivalent faculty, readily available in the University's statistical handbook, is 2,493. Therefore all subsequent analysis in this paper is factually incorrect."
A previous attempt by Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist, to use faculty productivity data released by the UT System (which, at the time, was still in draft form) to make similar claims to O'Donnell's met with similar responses from the UT administration.
The Tribune has reached out to O'Donnell for a response and will update this post when he provides one.
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