Saturday, June 20, 2020

Our plans aren't firm, but yours had better be

There's a steady drumbeat across the land. Do you hear it?

It's called "what are you doing in the fall?" and unlike the university, which has an infinity of time to make up its mind, we instructors are supposed to make ours up tout de suite.

What we still don't know:

1. Whether and how obvious steps like providing masks for everyone are going to happen.
2. Whether we're supposed to teach in masks or those face shields. I have an issue there with face shields, because I can't have anything on my head or I get a raging headache (even winter hats and headphones bring this on).
3. Whether modifications are going to be made to the open toilets in the bathrooms so that they're not spewing virus.
4. Ditto door handles--can we get something better that doesn't require you to wrestle it to a standstill with both hands?
5. Where our classes will be held. This is kind of a Catch-22, and it's not all the university's fault; they can't assign rooms until they figure out who's going to be on campus. But by the same token, we need to know if we're going to have to teach in a poorly ventilated--i.e., no windows--classroom for up to 3 hours at a stretch.
6. What's going to happen if people do show up with a temperature. This last is extremely concerning, because by that point, the person may have already infected people, including people with vulnerable family members. (Raises hand.) Checking to see if people are sick: good, but not enough. This isn't the flu, where there are treatments. People often die or are disabled by this disease.
7. What magic fairies are going to clean the classrooms often enough to make a difference.
8. Where the additional recording equipment, cameras, and helpers for the in-person and online recorded materials are going to come from. 

What we do know:

1. We instructors need to let them know what we're planning in about 10 days.
2. We are strongly encouraged to teach in person for the good of the university.
3. We need to let them know what our concerns or conditions are if we are not going to teach in person.

To back up a minute: in Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes or one of his other novels, one character is  talking about the "smoking may be hazardous to your health" warnings on cigarette packs.

One of his friends comes in and says it ought to be more blunt: "Smoking will kill you f**** dead."

My "concerns," in a nutshell?

"Covid can kill you f**** dead."

Friday, June 12, 2020

Departmental divides?

Like faculty at most universities, we've gotten some mixed messages about next fall that for sheer vagueness must have been crafted by McSweeney's:
After careful deliberation, we are pleased to report we can finally announce that we plan to re-open campus this fall. But with limitations. Unless we do not. Depending on guidance, which we have not yet received.
 We've been told that we should prepare to teach online, or in person, or some combination, TBD.

We've also been told that we can opt out of teaching in person. Some universities are apparently requiring doctor's notes (!), but as best I can interpret from the vatic utterances being issued on a regular basis, we don't have to do this.

I'm wondering what will happen to the cohesiveness of departments, though, if some people teach in person and some do not. (Bardiac mentions this in her most recent post.)
  • Obviously the most vulnerable will be contingent faculty. How can we protect them from feeling as though they have to be there?
  • In terms of logistics, will there be enough classrooms that will permit social distancing--and, if so, how will they be allocated, assuming people are going to teach in person? 
  • Also, on a practical level, I'm discovering that I'm just not as loud when I talk with a mask on. How's that going to work in a big room with no microphone?  
 But also important is this:
  • Will there be a departmental divide between the two groups? 
  • Will those who teach in person be considered differently (as more present, more engaged, more concerned for students, more productive) than those who teach online? 
  • Conversely, will those who teach online be seen as protecting students' health?
  • Will that difference extend to how instructors are considered by their students? By their colleagues? Both? 
  • What's going to happen to those little hallway exchanges? Is the group that's able to do that going to bond more effectively than the ones who are teaching from home? 

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Current events

Gwinne has a post up that says it better than I can. The  racist actions that led to George Floyd's murder and the ongoing attempts at a military coup by the Dear Leader are beyond horrifying.

Like Gwinne, I donate, learn and teach about the racist history of this country, and do what I can. I write letters. I vote.

All I can do now is support in every way as much as possible.

It's not enough, and it's not going to be enough. It can't be enough until there is substantive structural change.

I'm sorry.