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? 


nicoleandmaggie said...

Haha, we just got one of those vague updates-- it was there when I checked my email just now.

And... before that vague email it didn't say anything about needing to file paperwork to ensure teaching online, but this email came with 3 forms that have to be signed. So...

And yet, we also need some faculty to be online only or hybrid with alternating schedules in order to allow for social distancing.

gwinne said...

Yup. All of this.

My university came out with a vague statement several weeks ago about having students on campus in the fall....without any real sense of what that might look like. At this point my chair has redirected the majority of our classes online, with the choice of synchronous or asynchronous up to individual instructor. It will be a big mess, for sure. I'm glad to have the decision largely made, though, so I can go about course planning.

academicminimalist said...

We were asked to "opt-out" of teaching in-person earlier in the spring. No excuses needed to be given. Our department had a meeting and decided that everyone would "opt-out" so that no one felt pressure to do something unsafe. Also, since public health is our discipline, we do not believe teaching in-person is the correct thing to do. We do have the privilege of being a department that has an entire program online so the concept isn't new to us.

One of the things I keep thinking about is how much more constrained my teaching would be in-person under the guidelines they are setting up. I can do so much more that is interactive and applied online than I can do with students sitting 6 feet apart and wearing masks.

undine said...

nicoleandmaggie--they need at least some of us to be online, but they aren't addressing the issues of how that will work. I should probably not teach online for reasons, but I'm worried that it will be seen as not doing my job & being tough enough/committed enough. Honestly, at this point I shouldn't care, but I do.

gwinne--It's good that your chair made that decision. We can opt to be online, but I'm obviously concerned about how that's going to be seen and what it's going to do.

academicminimalist--that is a great solution! There is solidarity in everyone opting to be online instead of in person. We could do most if not all of our classes online, but that hasn't been the department culture, and there are still some "harrumph, how can an online class have RIGOR and ENGAGEMENT?" mutterings among some.

undine said...

Also, I am not interested in either dying for the Dow (right) or heeding the vicious call on Twitter for tenured academics to hurry up and die already (left).

xykademiqz said...

We will be teaching mostly in person, because otherwise the powers that be fear the undergrads won't come to campus. I can't teach with a mask, I will pass out. There just isn't enough oxygen with a mask on when you vigorously pace and talk at the top of your lungs. I was moved from a graduate course to one of the large-enrollment undergraduate ones to protect one elderly and one immunocompromised colleague who were supposed to teach before. I am relatively young so that's fine I suppose and I understand why it is being done, but on some level I am a little peeved that a mother of three in her mid-forties is used as cannon fodder in order to save the health of two old men, one of whom is well past retirement age and shouldn't be working anymore.

undine said...

xykademiqz--that's wrong on so many levels. If anything, you (with three children at home) should be the one who's being protected here. Why should you be subjected to that risk, even with a mask that means you can't teach and will pass out? But the fact that they're even debating who's cannon fodder her--very apt--means that the system is prepared to sacrifice us.

At first we heard that we could teach online, but now there's a drumbeat of teaching in person. I think it's nuts.