We received a number of emails in response to our recent e-Letter: The Work of Faculty. Members told us it resonated with them powerfully.
Faculty expressed that they continue to be frustrated with the Employer’s top-down, opaque process for responding to the pandemic that excludes them from decision making when it directly affects their work. Members are hearing things will never be the same again, yet nothing is known about what that means. The Employer’s choice of budgeting model (RCM and TABBS) that is still being promoted (last week at Council, for example) is an ill-conceived response to the COVID crisis. If 50% of your unit’s operating budget depends on teaching activity, student headcount, and qualifications awarded, faculty and their units are placed in a position of having to pump students through the system, regardless of the quality of education they are receiving. Faculty are making do, but are certainly not satisfied with this situation.
So what control do you have?
- Question what decisions you are involved with making now as compared to pre-pandemic.
- Pay attention to moments where the Employer is taking advantage of the pandemic to change your workload for teaching, class sizes or expectations of what can be done in a remote environment. The pandemic is forcing discussion of teaching philosophies, and faculty input into pedagogical methods of delivery after the pandemic is over is vital.
- Initiate a conversation about your programs and your assignment of duties guidelines. What changes should be made to make your programs sustainable? Some faculty have reported increased class sizes because there are no physical constraints due to classroom size. Some faculty report the same number of students, or more, divided into fewer sections. Will that continue after the pandemic? While larger class sizes might be quite manageable for some courses, now may be a good time to revisit your assignment of duty guidelines and discuss a limitation on student numbers or appropriate consideration of class size in those guidelines.
- Discuss what courses absolutely must be delivered during the pandemic. Is the deferral of a lab or a class until there is a vaccine a preferable response to insisting on the delivery of courses and labs where the subject matter cannot be adequately taught using currently available remote technologies? Our efforts to address public health risks should not be mistaken as agreement that online delivery methods are equivalent or adequate delivery methods.
- Remember, students are not the best gauge of how to learn the material. You are still the expert and have the academic freedom to decide what course work is appropriate for your classes.
- Hold onto your decision making rights and use them.
The Association will continue to push the Employer for faculty involvement in efforts to manage the COVID-19 response, particularly when it comes to the academic mission of the University. We are all in this together, but if faculty are not in the room, these efforts are not consultative and certainly not transparent. The responsibility for the academic mission of the University resides with you through College and University Councils.
We’d like to hear more from you. Let us know if you’ve found solutions to these issues and please continue to let us know about problems you are encountering.