Everyone in higher education deserves better than what we are getting now



This semester felt like it was living in limbo. Most campuses are open again after last year’s emergency distance learning, but things are hardly normal with the pandemic lingering around the world. A professor has captured the mood on many campuses in a Twitter feed which went viral this week. See a version here, posted with permission of the author.

As we end a semester that so many people – faculty, staff, students, administrators – have found incredibly difficult, I can’t help but think that we need to fundamentally rethink the way we do business. Higher Education.

I saw a tweet the other day that said we’re living in a time, like the Great Depression or World War II, where everything has changed. And yet, we work as if things went back to 2019 if we could just hold on a little longer.

There is no “bit longer”. there is no going back. And if we take this seriously and admit that what we’re doing right now isn’t working (as evidenced by exhaustion, exhaustion, illness, frustration, and sadness), we need to find another way. .

Individually we can do what we can. Flexibility at the shovel; understanding offered to each other as well as to our students. But no amount of individual grace can make up for the fact that our institutions are still moving forward as if we are not in a pandemic.

The immunocompromised and chronically ill among us need work patterns that don’t put them at risk, which means a collective effort to make our campuses safe and offer hybrid and distant options with much more thought.

We need a ton of mental health interventions — a lot more counselors and therapy groups for students; better support than five EAPs [Employee Assistance Program sessions] for teachers and staff; group supports; circles of dialogue; spaces to deal with what is happening and what it has cost.

We need to rethink the pace of our classes and what we can achieve in a term, semester or term. This is especially difficult in the sciences (for example) where X amount of material is a prerequisite for things like medical school.

But it does suggest that we also need to rethink graduate school!

We need space to find creative solutions to whatever we’re struggling to hold together with spit and string, and yet I don’t know anyone who has that kind of energy. We need school breaks and sabbaticals for staff. We need periodic reading days.

We have to pay auxiliaries for their expertise, so they don’t have to go through several jobs to make ends meet. We need to make sure they get benefits so they can be treated when they are sick and they can get a mental health day when they are frayed.

We need to start these conversations even if we don’t yet know the solutions. We need conversations within the department, on the unit and across the college – we need, wherever we are located, to what extent it is possible to initiate this process.

Everyone in higher education deserves better than what they are currently receiving. And it starts with realizing that it is not temporary. We’ve dedicated ourselves to learning about lifeboats, and it’s time to reinvent travel.



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