Ouch. This article hits pretty hard. I’d say it’s an accurate summary of how many faculty feel as a result of the pandemic.
A lot of people get into higher ed because they feel like this is a stable profession. So much of the higher ed workforce over the past few decades has changed in ways that don’t normally break through to public perception. I would say less than half of many faculties are tenured. Other people are contingent, hired every year, every semester. And the workload in a lot of student-facing positions is totally overwhelming for people too. These are people who are working really long hours, often on the weekend. The pay isn’t great, and they don’t really see an opportunity for professional advancement. That was an underlying issue before the pandemic, but COVID showed that the lows can be even lower than what people had anticipated.
To me, the theme of these breaking-point moments is when campuses were asking their employees to give up their own personal lives, to put their health in jeopardy during the pandemic without really acknowledging what that took and what the workers were sacrificing.
Seth Stevenson: As these schools reopen, what kind of reactions are you hearing about mask and vaccine mandates, and teaching virtually as opposed to in person?
If you’re at a public institution, the policies your school can adopt have always been in line with what the state allows. But because masks and vaccines have become so politicized, it’s a good chance that, in Republican-leaning states, you’re not going to have mandates, and people might not even be tested regularly. A lot of schools don’t put up the resources for that. If you’re at a private institution, you’re going to have a lot more flexibility. The campus leaders there are far more likely to mandate masks and vaccines and schools in states that voted for President Joe Biden. So there’s a real anger, particularly in red-state public schools, of people not feeling like the health and safety of their family members is being valued.
The people in charge of these schools are kind of a tough spot, right? They’ve got a pretty complicated challenge to deal with.
I think there is an acknowledgment that, especially at state institutions, to some degree their hands are tied. And I think that acknowledgment is far overshadowed by a sense of, Wow, this institution, my employer, there’s a lot of hypocrisy here.
There’s a podcast associated with it, too. There’s been an interesting rupture as a consequence of the pandemic, and most importantly, the fumbling approach of the institution to it. I’ve had a huge loss of faith in the university and the university administration — I don’t trust them at all to operate in the best interests of the faculty or students.
Also, the politicization is here in the blue states, too. I did not care much for our Democratic governor before, since his primary strength in the election was that he’d appeal to outstate Minnesota, the rural, red part of the state, and that’s what he has done. All along he has taken the minimal steps, and he’s folded up the tent as soon as he could (for instance, abandoning the mask mandate prematurely). I trust him even less now.
Boy, it sure feels good to vent on a blog that will have no effect and that the administration would never read and where my concerns can be totally ignored. It’s so nice and reassuring to know I don’t matter.