MSI Fellowship Week: How Academic Policies Affect Faculty During COVID 19 by Jeton McClinton

I am Jeton McClinton, an associate professor of Higher Education at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. I use qualitative research a lot in my work from teaching to applying it in many of my research projects.  Why you may ask well, simple, I like how it smoothly supports culturally responsive research practices. Most recently, I am using qualitative methods to collect faculty perceptions concerning how CoVID 19 affected their work/life balance. 

The Coronavirus disease, a deadly pandemic has affected the whole world and every nation is struggling to combat its dire consequences.  This worldwide crisis has also called for significant changes in work-related policies to mitigate the spread of the virus. I am focusing on significant changes in the education sector policies related to schooling formats, remote learning and working conditions, and how these policies affected faculty during CoVID.  I should say the first wave of CoVID.  Faculty members are not only trying to keep themselves safe from this outbreak but also trying to adjust from the dramatic shift in policies. Now the question arises, what are the faculty concerns regarding these changes in policies? Speaking from my personal experience, this remote learning/work from home severely disturbed my work/life balance. It has blurred the line between work and family life due to an increased workload, work interference in family time, and work-related fatigue which resulted in work-family conflict. It also hampers research and publication activity due to limited time and workload management. This online teaching environment is somewhat new to many faculty and somewhat difficult to rapidly learn and adapt to this environment. Unless, of course, you were already a techie. This pandemic has also made it difficult to provide virtual academic support as well as emotional support to students who themselves are facing difficulties related to the sudden transition from physical to remote learning. In this period of uncertainty, job security is in doubt as the university budget and hiring are at a halt and furlough announcements have been made.

Lessons Learned:

In response to CoVID-19 and new policies, faculty suggest creating a comprehensive view of the prevailing situation by incorporating public health, economic and political information into the insights of staff, faculty, alumni, students, and their parents to make productive adjustments for a realistic operating model. Moreover, by keeping in mind the current uncertainty and adapting an intellectual approach and changing workload timelines and conditions into a flexible yet systematic way to deliver solutions. 

Get Involved:

Furthermore, to reverse the effects of negative policies and the drop in productivity, what faculty want from academic leaders is to work together and develop policies that evaluate and acknowledge their struggle during this speedy transition to online teaching. Also, the negative impact on course evaluations can be avoided by using a written form that reflects the transition to online teaching, training for online platforms, the need for resources for online classes, and the need for support concerning effective online teaching in the future.

Hot Tip:

For the evaluation and appreciation of efforts, faculty members think that institutional leaders can evaluate and appreciate their efforts and emotional support by encouraging them to document mentorship, services, training, and support they have provided to students as well as junior colleagues in this time of crisis.

Culturally Responsive Approach 

Taking a glimpse into the cultural approach, often non-tenured lines are mostly dominated by women. In the era of CoVID-19 non-tenure ranked faculty members are vulnerable to unemployment due to implied contractual renewal limits, freeze in institutional hiring, and a faltering economy. So, institutions need to devise equitable guidelines and services for both tenure and non-tenure ranks.

The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage:  Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “MSI Fellowship Week: How Academic Policies Affect Faculty During COVID 19 by Jeton McClinton”

  1. Hello Mr. McClinton,

    I really resonated with your article especially in regard to finding a work-life balance during COVID-19 (and anytime for that matter, but COVID has not made it any easier on anyone). As an elementary school teacher there are so many ‘extras’ that we are expected to do alongside being our students’ teacher, friend, counsellor and sometimes the most stable piece of routine in their lives. That can feel like a lot of pressure sometimes on a primary teacher and it can be especially challenging to decompress when you come home. For me each September I cannot help but lay in bed thinking about ways in which I can support my students and what life lessons I can teach! You mention the ‘work-family conflict’. I connect to this because at the start of COVID I was still living at home with my parents, and it became incredibly challenging being home all day due to non-essential businesses being closed for a while. I have heard that the percentage of divorces had unfortunately increased during the pandemic as well which was disheartening to hear.

    Furthermore, I found it very challenging to adapt to the remote learning environment. It was very strange to sit in my room and make interactive videos to later show my students to help it feel a little bit normal. It is so hard to reach all learners during remote learning and having that working student to teacher relationship. It also became difficult when technology was a challenge for students to navigate. I am so thankful it was only for the final term of school and no longer. As optimistic as I felt that my district would not need to wear masks this school year, it is a small price to pay as not to go back to remote learning.

    Thank you for bringing these issues to light. Take care.

    Daniela Mazza

  2. Hello Mr. McClinton,
    I chose to read your article after having a long week at school doing exactly what you discuss in your article, balancing my work/life ratio. I find with having to shift to virtual learning no matter how much we learn about it, it seems to be incredibly time consuming. Though the majority of teaching I do this year is in-building, I find that when prepping materials for my online classes, I often have to cut into my home life times such as evenings and weekends. I believe this may be the case due to having less flexibility and on the spot problem solving solutions when having limited resources online compared to in-building. As you mention, the need for online training and resources is incredibly important, especially if online teaching is here to stay for the future. Your article also made me think back to how much the shift in policies impacted educators of various kinds at various levels of education. For those teaching virtually before the pandemic such as at post-secondary level, the policies had still changed due to the factor of the pandemic weighing in. With the elementary school level not having virtual teaching before, I know that the policy changes in factors such as attendance, assessment and general expectations was an incredibly different way of teaching for most educators. Having to address these changes, most educators had to use lots of personal time to deliver the best quality learning possible for their students. These changes in policies leading to increased workload definitely impacted the well-being of most educators. I personal found what helped educators the most was consistency. Though there are always new changes coming up, having consistent guidelines allowed educators to reach out to one another. Knowing that everyone is in the same boat, kept everyone afloat. Thank you for addressing the possible negative effects and clearly emphasizing the continuous need for support in several ways.

    Simran Sandhu

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