Perceptions of and Actions toward Unproductive and Deleterious Faculty

  • Shane Paul Desselle Touro University California
  • David Zgarrick Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences
  • Sujith Ramachandran University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy
Keywords: faculty, deadwood, productivity, collegiality, academic governance


Background: Academic deadwood is a term used to describe certain faculty whose behaviors are counter to the organization’s goals. Little is known about those behaviors and aspects of performance considered most problematic, nor how academic pharmacy is addressing the issue of these faculty.

Objectives:(1) Ascribe the salience of various factors in defining deleterious, or so-called “deadwood” faculty and determine differences in these perceptions according to faculty institution, rank, discipline, years of experience, and other personal and work-related factors; (2) identify perceptions of what is currently done and what should be done in response to these faculty; and (3) discern differences among faculty and administrators in these perceptions.

Methods: The study utilized a web-based survey of U.S. faculty in colleges/schools of pharmacy delivered to a census sample of 3378 members within 2018 AACP list-servs. Items were developed from the literature with the express intent of measuring various aspects of academic deadwood pertaining to the study objectives. Reminders were employed to maximize survey responses. Frequency distributions and chi-square statistics were conducted to describe the data.

Results: The research found poor quality of teaching, poor citizenship behaviors, and lack of scholarly publications to be defining of deadwood. Responding faculty believed that there should be attempts to develop and rejuvenate these faculty, but also disciplinary actions and termination in some cases. The research identified a significant gap between the frequencies of actions currently being taken in response to these faculty versus the frequency with which actions should be taken. While there were differences of opinion in describing and recommending frequency of action in response to these faculty, respondents from different types of institutions and holding different administrative appointments and rank were largely in agreement. 

Conclusions: There was general agreement among faculty in varying positions, including supervisory ones, at different types of institutions on what is currently being done and what should be done in regard to deadwood faculty. The paper discusses implications for communication and academic governance, even within the boundaries of policies, rules, and regulations at the larger, institutional level.


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Received 2021-04-14
Accepted 2021-06-18
Published 2021-06-29