May 24, 2020
The Community Ambassadors for the College of Science and Engineering are working to support changes that will provide flexibility regarding assessment of faculty, in an environment that is less reliant on unsustainable competition. We are providing the following statement regarding the expectations surrounding evaluations for Tenure and Promotion and Post-tenure review for the College of Science and Engineering. With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, and in light of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) provided by the Provost’s office and the union, this statement is provided as a reminder of the extraordinary circumstances the state and national stay at home orders have rendered on all faculty. This document is not meant to describe changes in policies, but rather to guide discussions about departmental expectations and culture.
Below, we list some of our motivations for a long-term shift in policies and procedures related to tenure and promotion include the following:
- COVID-19 is permanently, not temporarily, changing the world we live and work in.
- Personal hardships may not be reversible within a discrete timeframe, if at all:
- Lives that were lost to COVID-19 will not return.
- Lost incomes or homes will not be financially restored easily or quickly.
- Couples who have divorced or separated due to financial and health stresses related to COVID-19 and exacerbated by stay-at-home orders will likely remain separated, even as other aspects of daily life might return to “normal”.
- Personal hardships that can be overcome will likely take longer than shutdown timeframes, for example:
- Children’s education and social development will be delayed.
- Long-term health impacts and caring for those with long-term health impacts.
- Rebuilding trust and trusted relationships after distancing.
- If the rise in COVID-19 related racism towards Asians and Asian Americans and xenophobia follows the same trajectory as the rise in 9/11 related Islamophobia, increases in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia will persist a year from now.
All students, staff, and faculty at Western Washington University will be living in a changed world that continues to impact us throughout and beyond the next six years. Importantly, because sex/gender, race, health disparities, and labor are intertwined in the United States, not all people will be affected to the same extent, and Asian-American, Black, Latinx, Hispanic, and Native people will be disproportionately impacted economically by COVID-19.
COVID-19 is exposing the cracks in society by turning them into canyons. At Western, the expected levels of productivity prior to the pandemic comprise one of those cracks: many if not all faculty and staff were working at maximum capacities, without the reserves of time or energy to effectively cope with the immediate impacts of the pandemic. This lack of capacity to cope with emergencies existed prior to COVID-19 and became conspicuous during the pandemic as we all dealt with the same emergency at the same time. A return to productivity expectations that predate the pandemic will be unsustainable, unwise, and unkind. COVID-19 will inevitably cause permanent changes that we cannot control (e.g., loss of life). It also has the potential to spark permanent changes that are kind and just (e.g., a permanent reduction in expectations about productivity).
We appreciate the work on an interim COPEP statement by PPBC and the CSE EID committee. In addition, it is imperative that the COVID-19 crisis be acknowledged not as an extraordinary circumstance for any individual, but rather as an extraordinary circumstance for everyone, leading to diverse and unequal consequences. We present this strong recommendation that all evaluators of faculty service, teaching, and scholarship remain mindful that impacts are disproportionate in ways that are linked to identities, including, but not limited to, those that are laid out above.
All members of our community must embrace a shift in expectations because we understand that excellence in scholarship, teaching, and service from this time forward will look different, and may need to be evaluated differently. Existing departmental COPEP addenda are clearly the line by which faculty are evaluated, which means that any traditional but non-official benchmarks (for example: achievements of previous candidates for tenure, or exceeding--not simply meeting--expectations) must be abandoned. The unattainable escalation of expectations for promotion and tenure has been problematic for some time, but the current situation makes it untenable. In order to mitigate a perceived lack of rigor in this adaptation, we suggest the following approaches.
- In accordance with the suggested changes in language to the COPEP by PPBC and the CSE EID committee, all faculty should include paragraphs about adaptation in their Dossiers, which would be used as examples of achieving elements of the COPEP: “For example, because I couldn’t do X as planned, I did Y.” This will provide ample space for people to demonstrate excellence in all categories.
- CAs offer to draft a paragraph that can be used by all faculty in Dossiers. Its sentiment will reflect the disruption of all university activities and will acknowledge that excellence will look different going forward, and that Dossiers reflect excellence in this new reality.
- Faculty invest considerable time crafting their self-assessments for review. As faculty creatively adapt their teaching, scholarship, and service under the space, personnel, care-taking, and countless additional constraints imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, traditionally quantifiable deliverables like publications and grant activity during the review period must be evaluated within the context of these constraints. How faculty have adapted their research programs and sustained student engagement in a crisis may be equally or even more predictive of future contributions than traditional metrics like publications produced under such unusual conditions. Candidate self-assessments should therefore play an outsized role in the review of candidates’ contributions during periods impacted by the crisis. Examples of changes that affect productivity could include (but are likely not limited to):
- Cancelled presentations (noted in CV, self-assessments)
- Length of time for external reviews (dates of submission)
- Moratorium on professional travel for 6 month+ period
We support an approach by which people can list cancelled or delayed deliverables for assessment in their CVs. These items should be considered as evidence of productivity.
- Individuals should not be expected or required to divulge personal hardships; the understanding that all members of our community are affected must be central to discussions of Dossiers and advising of junior faculty.
- Data describing the uneven burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on different populations should be openly acknowledged by leadership at all levels. For example, while publication rates in some fields have been increasing under quarantine, those publications are overwhelmingly authored by men.
Finally, we recognize that universities are unique ecosystems. However, we also are providing this language from UCSF as it includes some useful examples of potential general language about the consequences of COVID-19, as well as a crucial paragraph about faculty choice regarding taking advantage (or not) of the extra time provided under the recent MOUs from the Provost and UFWW.
“At the outset, we want to reassure everyone that we understand that the pandemic is likely to have effects on faculty members’ academic performance and productivity during this year. We are sympathetic to the potential consequences of this crisis and as such it will be taken into consideration during future reviews.”
“ We recommend that, for future review actions, faculty explain how their teaching, scholarly and service activities were negatively affected during this period in their personal statements. In revising their CVs, faculty are encouraged to make note of conferences, talks at other universities, and other relevant opportunities to which they were invited, but are unable to attend due to COVID-19. Departments and schools should also provide the context for any periods of reduced activity. Faculty can be confident that reviewing agencies will take all of these factors into consideration when reviewing actions that cover this time period.”
“An Assistant Professor in a Senate Series who does not request a clock stop will not be penalized for a reduction in duties/productivity during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis (see above for further detail on future academic review).”
From the UCSF Academic Senate Additional Guidance for Academic Review due to COVID-19;
This document was drafted by the Community Ambassadors for the College of Science and Engineering (https://cse.wwu.edu/faculty-ambassadors) with input from Dr. Suzanne Lee, Department of Biology.
If you are need of assistance during the COVID-19, please find a list of WWU and community resources below. If you have college-specific concerns, please contact us.