May 3 Day 56: Not Even Close To Normal

We agree that these are extraordinary times. Making the rapid transition to emergency remote teaching was a huge burden on faculty everywhere. Continuing to teach remotely over an extended period of time does not get any easier. Every day is a struggle to transition more material to a remote format, rethink pedagogy to better engage students, and manage increased electronic communications. Many folks, myself included, are just hanging on by our fingernails.

And yet the usual requests keeping streaming in: Submit your annual productivity report. Attend this hiring committee report out. Serve on that review committee. Vote on the merit of your colleagues.

That last one really chaps me. By 5 pm tomorrow, I am to determine and vote on the merit of all my faculty colleagues. As a full professor that means 172 files (not including my own) to remotely access, review, and deem meritorious or not. Please understand that “merit” is essentially a cost of living increase (should we be lucky enough to receive anything given the circumstances) and we must go through this charade every year to prove to the state that we deserve such considerations. When our faculty was smaller, I enjoyed learning about my colleagues. It was a time to celebrate accomplishments and look for interdisciplinary collaborations. Right now, it is absolutely wasted labor. At one minute per file I can determine if my colleagues had time to write their reports, update their CVs, and upload materials–taking nearly three hours of my precious time. At ten minutes per file (or a total of nearly twenty-nine hours), I can scan a report or a CV and see that something was accomplished. Again, I ask “for what purpose?” Because this is the way it has always been done? The process is meaningless.

This year, I am giving myself a pass. I deem everyone that is alive, breathing, and teaching under these stressful conditions is meritorious.

Wow, just writing that down makes me feel better already.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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