Faculty at UMass Lowell has been affected differently by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic gave insight into the faculty’s perseverance at modifying lessons and combating challenges as a community conscientiously.
The university has offered support services to help professors with any technology concerns. Professor and Educational Technology Coordinator Michelle Scribner-MacLean described the benefits of the Institutional Technology Services. The service assists teachers and students with computer problems, and lends technology, as well as other equipment, to anyone in need. Another service that Scribner-MacLean mentioned was workshops to help educators advance their knowledge in teaching.
“The faculty have offered each other workshops to help to address teaching online, too. I offered one in January, and it was about how to set up a learning community,” Scribner-MacLean said. “If I need technology, if I need support, if I need to figure out how to do something, I have a lot of different places that I can go. That starts with my colleagues, the instructional technology people, the administration. I feel like everybody has come together and been helpful.” Scribner-MacLean said she is appreciative and is satisfied with the support available for faculty and has no complaints.
English professor Anthony Szczesiul also recognized faculties’ hard work. “I think faculty are very committed to trying to get through this [with] the least amount of damage to students. Trying to replicate as much as possible, a good learning environment.”
Professor of Clinical Education Patricia Fontaine also recognized the workshops in place to support faculty. However, she said she was upset when the university canceled spring break. “I’m in the senate, and I was really upset when they canceled spring break. That’s what I need, and I actually think that’s what students needed––a week off, spring break.”
To say that all faculty are happy with the university’s efforts in supporting them is an overstatement. Szczesiul said he had concerns in regards to faculty who are planning to go for a promotion.
“The administration needs to realize that and come up with ways to ensure faculty that their efforts and excellence in their work is going to be judged according to this circumstance. A lot of things have changed about the way people are able to do research and publish. A lot of things are backed up. A lot of faculty are stressed about how they are going to be judged. I think we need to come up with ways of defining excellence in faculty work that take that into account,” Szczesiul said.
Szczesiul said at this time, he needs the university to give “more than just thank you and cheering. More awareness that many faculty are struggling in the same way as students. More acknowledgment and compensation for the extraordinary efforts of some faculty that have gone above and beyond. People are taking on work that they never anticipated and that is work without compensation.”
Szczesiul also shared how the university had laid off many staff and cut back several departments and positions that support students. As a result, faculty are required to do more service work. Service work is part of their job, but it can go above and beyond what they normally do. This can put constraints on the faculty.
“Another way the university can support us is bringing back the staff that used to be here and returning class sizes to what they used to be,” Szczesiul said.
This year had brought many changes that should be remembered, Fontaine said. She said she hopes the university remembers the hardships that the faculty went through after the pandemic is over.
“We all have personal lives, and just like any other family in America––especially for my colleagues––they had to take care of their family, take care of themselves and take care of the students. I don’t want them to forget just because we are high-ranking, in the sense of teaching in college,” Fontaine said.