NSF Recognizes DU Pandemic Mitigation Efforts

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As the coronavirus pandemic emerged and wreaked havoc around the world, it was difficult for any human enterprise to keep pace with the losses, sudden closures, new demands and other unexpected changes that accompanied it. Today, more than two years later, many challenges persist.

The University of Delaware community has converged behind a “Protect the Flock” approach, aimed at reducing the spread of the virus, and broad cooperation has proven the effort worthwhile.

At the same time, a group of faculty members and administrators were coming together to deal with another potential threat – the long-term harmful ripple effects the virus and its consequences could have on faculty members. , especially those who already face pre-existing inequalities posed by gender and racial bias.

Some examples of significant COVID-related complications for faculty:

  • Campus closure, which has forced a rapid shift to distance learning, adoption of new technologies, closure of labs and other facilities

  • Interrupting and canceling programs

  • Additional requests for those in caregiver roles

  • Additional teaching responsibilities, as covered faculty for absent colleagues

  • Additional Student Mentoring and Counseling Responsibilities

  • Significant revisions to research and teaching methods

  • Changes in grant requirements, funding reductions

  • Delays in review processes and publications

The UD Task Force on Equity in Faculty Evaluation met in the summer of 2020 to develop policy recommendations that would consider these and many other challenges when evaluating faculty for promotion and tenure. Led by Matthew Kinservik, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, the task force submitted its report to then-Chancellor Robin Morgan and the Faculty Senate in October of that year.

As a result, several new policies are now part of the faculty handbook, including:

  • An option for a one-year term/contract clock extension

  • Make student feedback on Spring 2020 through Summer 2021 courses an optional part of faculty evaluation and peer review

  • Require a “COVID Impact Statement” in faculty records to give examiners the information needed for a fair assessment

UD’s efforts were recently recognized by the National Science Foundation’s “Taking Action” initiative, which assessed institutions’ pandemic mitigation efforts for faculty in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). UD took third place in the national exam, with Indiana University-Purdue taking first place and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst taking second.

In announcing UD’s award, reviewers cited “the institution’s commitment to long-term follow-up”.

UD’s work has been marked by a “spirit of cooperation,” Kinservik said.

“It was a great example of how shared governance should work in a university, involving the trustees, the Faculty Senate, the faculty union, UD ADVANCE and others,” he said.

UD has hosted a series of write-in sessions, designed to help professors incorporate these changes into their records, which are due September 1, and is working with examiners to ensure they understand and follow these write-in policies. fair way.

“While the policies are meant to help, many faculty are understandably wary of them,” said Heather Doty, faculty leader at UD’s formerly NSF-funded ADVANCE Institute, which strives to increase the participation and advancement of diverse faculty at UD. “We know from faculty climate surveys that there is a lot of uncertainty around promotion and tenure assessments. We have made progress in our efforts to advance diversity, but women are still underrepresented and we are still a very white campus. It is essential to engage stakeholders across campus and ensure that our policies are fair. »

UD was quick to respond to that need, Kinservik said, and that leadership has proven invaluable to other institutions.

“I think the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that UD took on the challenges of COVID early on and adopted these formal policies long before many other universities,” he said. “Because of this, I know the actions we took had an influence on other colleges and universities as they also grappled with the impact of COVID on faculty careers.

The policies remain in effect until 2028-29, Kinservik said.

“I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in enacting these policies and raising awareness about them on campus so that our faculty know that we are committed to their success despite the continued challenges of this pandemic,” he said. -he declares.


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