The Campanile stretches across a blurred background of code

Despite concerns raised by Faculty Senate, the University of Kansas recently signed a contract with data analysis company Academic Analytics, which reviews the University and its professors based on aggregated data. 

Over faculty objections, the University of Kansas recently agreed to pay a contractor $283,000 a year to help assess how it and its professors are performing nationally. 

The University signed a four-year contract with Academic Analytics in October to analyze its overall performance compared with national peers. 

But weeks before the University signed the contract, Faculty Senate sent an email to Chancellor Douglas Girod and Interim Provost Carl Lejuez requesting a delay for at least a year, given the $20 million budget cut from which the University is still recovering. 

Faculty Senate said the University didn’t provide clear answers about how Academic Analytics would do its work. And the product is not worth the cost, as faculty have claimed the data is faulty. 

“We’re concerned it’s a large cost in the current constraints of the budget we have,” said Faculty Senate President Shawn Leigh Alexander. “We didn’t understand why [Lejuez] couldn’t just wait a year and evaluate it more. The response to that was basically, ‘The price will go up if we wait.’”

The company has been a partner with the University since 2010, said company spokesperson Tricia Stapleton in an email to the Kansan. The current contract signed lasts until 2023. 

The Kansan received a copy of the contract between the University and Academic Analytics through the Kansas Open Records Act. But details of the contract remain unclear because the document was heavily redacted. The University said it couldn’t share those details, citing the legal exemptions of “rules of evidence” and “a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.”

The American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, urged caution against universities using Academic Analytics to determine whether specific professors were deserving of promotions or earning tenure in a statement released in 2016. The association criticized Academic Analytics’ use of quantitative data, writing that it “must inevitably fail” to properly represent faculty productivity and scholarly accomplishments. 

Academic Analytics captures data on the universities and colleges with which it partners, Stapleton said in an interview with the Kansan. That data includes tools that could help professors connect to national grants. 

“If someone is expecting their full CV to be included in faculty insight, that just doesn’t happen because we don’t capture grants other than federal grants,” Stapleton said. “If someone has a different grant that’s from a private organization, we won’t have that.” 

In a memo to faculty, Lejuez said on Oct. 16 the University would be signing the contract “later that week.” The contract obtained by the Kansan through the open records act was dated Oct. 8.

Lejuez said the memo was originally supposed to go out earlier but was delayed until he could meet with faculty to discuss the contract.

In the memo, Lejuez acknowledged Academic Analytics “has limited benefit for faculty in some disciplines,” but said it “emerged as a very strong tool” for others. 

“It’s important for us to have ways to assess our productivity,” Lejuez said in an interview with the Kansan. “If you are going to have a tool to do this, this is the only viable one to do it with.”