The work of faculty is changing in response to the Administration’s decision to shutter campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The continual erosion of direct, administrative and technical support for faculty has only increased the burden on faculty as we take on the work of schedulers, IT equipment installers, purchasers, instructional designers, and in some cases, custodians and building service technicians. Many faculty are more than willing to do this work because of the extraordinary circumstances we have found ourselves in or as a pre-condition of getting back into offices and labs. Both are understandable reasons for taking on these tasks, but you might consider another perspective.
What work that only you, as faculty, can do is not being done because you are filling gaps left from the under-resourcing of direct, administrative and technical support of faculty?
Have you declined a request from a journal in your field to do a peer review? Was that grant proposal put off until next year? Did you reduce the number of assignments in your undergraduate courses? Did you only give a cursory look at your colleague’s tenure case when they asked for your feedback? At a recent meeting with the GSA, we learned that many graduate students are reporting that they are being overlooked as faculty have spent the last 7 months focused on online teaching and not graduate supervision.
Or maybe you are still doing all of these things, but you haven’t exercised in 7 months or have skipped Book Club since April because you just can’t find the time to read the books. Are you on a first name basis with a half a dozen Skip the Dishes drivers? Are you getting less sleep? Have your family and friends begun to comment that when you do show up, you’re irritable and exhausted?
If any of this resonates, you are not alone.
Your herculean effort over the last few months has ensured that your students are continuing to receive a high quality and innovative education from the University of Saskatchewan. Nonetheless, it has become clear that this is no longer a temporary situation.
This ‘new normal’ is not sustainable.
As faculty, we need to let the administration know that we will be prioritizing the work only we can do. For example, requests to contribute to initiatives such as program review, cybersecurity training and meet and greets with alumni and donors will be on the bottom of our ‘to do lists’.
We can also say NO to non-faculty work and work that was not included in our assignment of duties. When faculty ‘picks up the slack’ for the administration’s decision to under-resource this essential administrative and support work, there is one less job available in our community.
Almost every other employer has had to increase the amount of cleaning staff. The University of Saskatchewan has recently laid off custodial and building service staff, in some cases, permanently. CUPE and ASPA have also confirmed a number of other permanent staffing reductions among their ranks in recent months. Are the resources for these positions being re-allocated to directly support faculty who are on the frontlines of the teaching and research mission of the University? Why not? To stand in solidarity with other unions on campus, we might resist doing their work instead of our own.
It is time for the Administration to offer more than words of appreciation to faculty.