Friday, June 12, 2020

Meetings with Chairs

There's much uncertainty these days!  The other day, I was in a meeting with chairs and the Dean, and several deanlings, all on line.

You get a sense of who is dealing with real issues (some departments just don't work as well on line, nor do some activities), and of who likes to talk, and of who is really uncomfortable with uncertainty and just wants things nailed down.

Some people say a few words, a single question, a response to a question.  Other people say a lot.  And some people say absolutely nothing.

Apparently, our plan right now is to be face to face for most classes on campus.  There's planning to figure out how to accommodate instructors who have health risks, but it's not clear how HR is going to do that.  (This is a massively busy time of year for HR anyway, with new faculty and adjuncts, some retirements, hiring permissions, etc.  And our HR was really cut a few years ago and hasn't recovered.)  So HR is figuring that out, and it has to be done legally, with regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act and so forth, and that's important.

I get that.  I've assured the colleagues who've contacted me that we're going to have a way to accommodate their health needs.  I'm pretty sure that part will happen.  (Though I'm also attentive to folks who tell me that the university hasn't been very accommodating of previous health or disability issues.)

I don't think we'll be much accommodating, at least officially, to preferences.

And I'm not sure how we'll handle students' health issues.  It's a nightmare to think that faculty would have to teach in person and also have basically an on line independent study with one person.  But, we need to make sure we're not putting anyone with health needs at unnecessary risk.

A lot will depend on chairs.  If an instructor says, "the best way to teach X in this circumstance is to go on line," then is the chair going to try to override that and say, no, you aren't the expert at teaching your thing?

There will be administrative pressure to do that at the top.  But chairs can resist pressure if they want to and so can Deans.

What about students?  If an instructor meets the first day of classes and says, "this is how it's going to be for this class," will students complain way up the line?  If not, then who's to know?

If they complain to the chair, then the chair can say that they respect the instructor's expertise as a teacher and academic freedom to teach in the best way possible, and leave it at that.  But the student could contact the headmaster (ours is very visible), and then the headmaster may set things in motion that aren't so easy to control.

I think a lot will depend on how many instructors want to move on line.  If 10-20 percent want to, we'll probably be pretty relaxed about it.  If 80 percent want to, I think the administration won't be relaxed at all.


  1. We've been told that no instructor will have to meet face to face if they don't feel safe. They're also putting in plastic shields and working on plans to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required on campus in any public area, even if alone. We need some number to go online or hybrid to allow for social distancing.

    I still won't know what my classes are doing until sometime in July, probably late.

  2. We're being told that just feeling unsafe may not be enough, if there's no documented medical issue. Logically, we do need about one third of courses on line to fit everyone else in doing social distancing.