University-wide task force has found the GW community is seeking a ‘culture of empathy’ and continued remote options emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the group’s report released last week .
The task force – which consists of 18 faculty, staff and students tasked with developing post-pandemic recommendations for GW – established four task forces in February focused on graduate and professional students, undergraduates , faculty and academic support staff and staff. Members of the task force conducted surveys, town halls and research over the course of nearly nine months, issuing a report culminating with dozens of recommendations on upgrades to GW’s academic environment.
“The pandemic has forced higher education institutions to adapt and innovate faster and more comprehensively than any other event in modern history,” the report says. “The transformation from the long-standing model of in-person and student-in-residence courses to a virtual model has required a wide range of innovation and accommodation across the University. “
Here are some of the main recommendations from each of the four working groups:
The faculty task force recommended that officials create an option for faculty to teach remotely, in person, or in a hybrid format and invest in equipment and training for virtual education where appropriate.
“Faculty members also expressed that rigid policies, such as deadlines for grade submissions and dropping out and adding courses, created barriers to empathy and support,” the report says. . “The demand for teaching has exceeded some professors, especially adjunct and part-time professors whose extra time to prepare for virtual learning has not been compensated.”
The group also recommended that officials extend the tenure deadline – the period after which administrators make the decision whether or not to grant tenure – beyond the one-year break currently in place due to search delays. linked to the pandemic. Professors said in April that they were concerned about the amount of research funding in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2022.
“The pandemic and post-pandemic era is likely to last two to five years, and the University’s response must recognize that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution,” the report said. “The institution must ensure that we put in place the right scaffolding that will allow us to rebuild better, but the process will have to be iterative and evolve. We will need to adapt systems and solutions to new realities over time. “
The report recommends that managers allow faculty the ability to continue virtual operations during office hours and faculty meetings to improve faculty work-life balance. University President Thomas LeBlanc has previously expressed support for increasing flexibility and providing virtual alternatives for meetings.
“Faculty members have reported emotional overload due to illness and death related to COVID,” the report says. The faculty also said they were overwhelmed with the amount of emails from students who needed additional advice due to increased needs for learning supports and work-life imbalances. “
The undergraduate student working group found “strong” support for recording lectures and providing virtual services to students, such as office hours and healthcare.
“Students cited flexibility and accessibility as the main benefits of the online platform,” the report says.
The group also found that students wanted the university community to pursue a “culture of empathy,” which was fostered during the pandemic, claiming that faculty empathy contributes to student satisfaction.
LeBlanc made improving corporate culture one of his five strategic initiatives as president with the goal of eliminating the “fear-based” culture that directors said was present among GW employees. . But some professors said the cultural initiative, which was held in April 2018, failed to address these issues properly, and others said they didn’t think there was a culture issue at home. GW.
“We are not suggesting spending more money on outside consultants,” the report says. “We suggest bringing students and faculty together to develop other ideas to develop a culture of empathy and respect. This would replace or replace the previous “cultural initiative”.
Graduate students and professionals
The Graduate Student and Professional Task Force recommended that officials strive to build community among graduate students by investing in staff members that schools and colleges “deem necessary for community building.”
“In our town halls and in survey responses, graduate students mentioned that group work was difficult to coordinate, that it was difficult to connect with faculty and faculty, and that it was difficult. to have a sense of community, ”the report says.
The report recommends that officials offer a virtual option for some courses and tape lectures in the interest of accommodating graduate student schedules. The group also called on authorities to provide students with universal broadband internet access to make virtual spaces more accessible.
“The pandemic has underscored the fact that accessibility to online research resources is the key to higher education,” the report said.
The report suggests that officials assess the net impact of the pandemic on improving diversity, equity and inclusion, and provide resources for the task force to do that assessment as well.
“Although the university as a whole has become slightly more diverse during the pandemic, the task force does not have access to enrollment data specific to graduate students to assess the problem,” the report said.
The working group also stresses that officials should be more transparent in their decision-making and communications.
“Graduate students, faculty, and staff express appreciation for the communication by programs and schools during the transition to e-learning, but have also expressed frustration with communications regarding financial aid, layoffs and technological changes, ”the report says.
Officials laid off 339 staff members last year as part of several budget mitigation strategies aimed at limiting the financial impact of the pandemic.
Academic support staff and staff
The Staff and Academic Support Staff Working Group recommended that officials support telecommuting with the necessary equipment and software for staff, and encouraged a “culture of hybridization” with options for the job. from a distance. The group also recommended that officials appoint an e-learning manager within the University.
“Certain aspects[s] staff activities could be more online even without a move to hybrid and virtual classrooms; the likely reorganization of the classroom experience requires the involvement of staff and further coordination of resources and training, ”the report says.
The group called on officials to encourage innovation and creativity through an inclusive environment.
“Maintaining a highly functional and effective university community depends heavily on fostering, developing and maintaining an organizational culture that values strong relationships,” the report says. “For academic support staff, this is an important part of their work-life arrangement with the University.”
The group recommended that officials reconsider the possibility of a “staff council”, which would provide feedback to directors.
“Communication is the means by which all of the University’s stakeholders ensure that information is shared fairly and consistently,” the report states.
The report also states that officials should also strive to alleviate problems during staff turnover.
“Clear processes must be developed to make it easier for everyone to work – staff and clients, universal academic tools that do not differ between schools, scalable infrastructure, technical support, increased digital security and privacy,” the report states. .