As the 2020 Spring semester has come to a close, we want to thank you for the hard work required to shift to remote teaching, and also to acknowledge the myriad of other disruptions to your personal and professional lives during this unprecedented pandemic. We write today with a message of reassurance.
We know that dealing with the disruptions to the Spring 2020 semester was hard. Looking ahead, adjusting to the significant changes in just about all other areas of our scholarly careers will be difficult. We will never advocate for or enact evaluations of you or your work that pretend as if things were normal this semester.
We have said in communications throughout the semester that this is not business as usual. We intend to honor that, especially when it comes time for promotion and tenure evaluations, merit evaluations, and in all similar assessment moments.
Already this year, there have been many lost opportunities: performances, exhibitions, and conferences that were cancelled, research that was interrupted due to travel restrictions, or the need to suspend person-to-person contact to maintain social distancing. We have had to adjust to working at home, but we’ve also had to adjust to new realities of work and family life coinciding: caring for children and supervising their schooling, caring for loved ones who may have illnesses, or other vulnerabilities in our lives. None of these things should be left out of the accounts we try to assemble when we do evaluations. They are part of our story.
However, more disruptions lie ahead. The looming budget shortfalls will mean cuts to resources that we typically use to advance faculty careers. We are likely to continue to see less travel in the coming year, and few if any events with large numbers of people in attendance. We will remain mindful that research and creative activity in the midst of those conditions will not proceed at the same pace as it might have before. We are also aware that disparities – some familiar and some new – may arise that put some of our colleagues at a disadvantage in terms of career growth. We pledge to be alert for these and to prevent them where we can. We will, at a minimum, make every effort not to exacerbate known inequities. A key to meeting this goal will be continued open communication with mentors, within and across departments, centers, programs, and the Dean’s Office about the nature and variety of hurdles and barriers encountered as we pursue our academic work.
In closing, we want to acknowledge and celebrate those endeavors you have and will accomplish in these difficult times. We are proud of the ways all of you have rallied, found deep wells of courage and resilience, and remained focused on helping students and one another even when dealing with adversity. There can be no new precedent for productivity set when, as a culture, we are struggling to respond to COVID-19. Instead, we will seek to celebrate one another’s’ accomplishments while also trying to come, as Chris Long has said, to ‘a new rhythm and new set of expectations about what it means to work and learn together’.
William F. Hart-Davidson
Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education
Associate Dean for Academic Personnel & Administration