LFH: Day 4
In comments yesterday Barb advised me to take care of my eyes, and I really understood what she meant by the end of the day. My eyes were burning from the amount of time I had spent staring at the screen. For someone who rarely Skypes or video-conferences, the last few days have been a big change. Yesterday I logged 4.5 hours of live video interaction. First up was a morning meeting, then from noon to 1:30pm we watched the A&S and College Deans preside over a Town Hall, and then I caught up with the grad student I work with the most from 2pm to almost 3:30.
The main news in the Town Hall was about the closure of the university and the ramifications for faculty and staff. Starting March 23rd only essential personnel are allowed to be on campus, and the university has to be informed about those situations and clear them. Labs and other campus-based, ongoing research are reduced to maintenance. The expectation is that no active research will be conducted on campus with the exception of COVID-19-related research. And graduate students must stay off campus, i.e., they can’t be doing maintenance work in labs or any other tasks. Essential work has to be done by staff and faculty. You can imagine how this impacts labs, research programs, and the building of tenure and promotion portfolios. The current policies are in place until April 6, and all personnel will receive Paid Time Off (PTO) days to cover circumstances where they are unable to work from home, for whatever reason (personal or practical).
In between video appointments I tackled email. I finalized the survey for my students and coordinated the collection of information the college needs on how our we’re running our online classes. My colleagues have been great about responding, and so have my students. I don’t have all the responses in yet, but the majority of both classes are in (75% of one and 80% of the other). As I suspected, most of my students are in the US spread across our lower-48 time zones, but I have a handful that are further away. I was relieved to find that almost all of them have decent broadband internet. On the other hand, I was not surprised to learn that well over half of them have regular and/or substantial responsibilities at home that they wouldn’t have at school, which of course affects their ability to devote uninterrupted, concentrated time and space to their studies.
Our Dean of the College, who is awesome, stressed repeatedly that holding synchronous classes is unlikely to work well, and if professors insist on doing it they also must have a non-synchronous options. My survey responses show why synchronous class sessions are unlikely to work. Students are not captives on campus anymore. They have gone home to widely disparate settings. Many of them have parents, siblings, or other relatives and friends who place demands on their time and space whether they want to or not. And in my university’s case, they don’t even have most of their stuff. They have stresses galore when they’re not dealing with a worldwide pandemic, so what they are confronting now makes instruction an even bigger challenge. But I firmly believe it’s important to offer some kind of continuity. We older adults tend to forget that for most children, adolescents, and young adults, school is the activity that structures their lives. It’s their job, and more. When it’s taken away they are untethered. If we can offer them learning, however altered, we’re giving them something that provides continuity and is theirs. At least I hope that’s how it will work.
I started working at 6am to prepare for my 9am meeting, so I threw in the towel at 4:30pm when we walked the dogs. In the sunshine! We waved to a number of our neighbors who had also ventured out to get air and warmth. Then we watched the news and talked about what to make for dinner. As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been worrying about our small restaurant and takeout places, so I called the fried chicken joint to see if they were open. They were, and they still had chicken wings, so TheH went over and picked up wings and sweet potato fries, which we supplemented with steamed broccoli. It was delicious and mostly not made by us! And TheH confirmed that the restaurant, which is now take-out only, is observing safe distance rules. Being the grumpy-ish middle-aged men that they are, this was enforced with a “please place your order and step away from the counter” sign. Heh. I love that place.
We turned to Kanopy for entertainment and found The Front Page, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, in a beautifully remastered edition. We’ve both seen it several times but not for ages, so parts of it were a surprise. I remembered the fast patter and Ralph Bellamy, but I didn’t remember the fourth-wall breaking asides (e.g. Cary Grant describing Ralph Bellamy’s character as looking like Ralph Bellamy the actor). It has some racist language, used casually in passing which is somehow even worse, so be warned if you decide to watch it.
It would be nice to see the sun for longer than a couple of hours, which is all we’ve had since we got back on Friday evening. No such luck today, which started with rain and isn’t going to change. Friday looks like our first chance for sustained sunshine. Fingers crossed.
P.S. If any teachers reading this want to see the student survey, I’m happy to share it. Just let me know.
I just got the email that we are going to limited operation mode as well–no face to face student services, and very limited access to campus. What’s more, we’re not going to try to have a face-to-face summer semester. My daughter is not going to be going back to high school this year (they haven’t said so, but come on), and I just hope she manages to graduate. My son’s on a work semester that transitioned to remote work, so I think he’ll come home from the island while we know he can.
I’m very lucky to have a pretty secure job, but there’s no way this won’t have a substantial medium-term impact on our institution, among other things because of our large number of international students. I try not to look too far ahead, because the future is so uncertain and out of my control. I am veering between calmly working away and absolute panic. Good times!
But! The sun is shining, things are blooming, and we’ve all spent some time outside. My husband has a remote beer date this evening, and I’m going to suggest something similar to friends. It occurs to me this might prompt me to “see” old friends I normally don’t!
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LOL, my Dean set a correction email saying all online summer is not certain yet. But they’ll have to make the call soon, I think.
I have mostly done all the necessary cancelling of things. There’s some moving-to-online admin to catch up with and a few online meetings next week, but then I’m moving my planned annual leave a week earlier, which will be really nice.
Because I keep seeing all these posts for fun things to do with all this extra time at home we’ve got and I haven’t got any extra time to do any of them! So it will be nice to be on annual leave and make the most of it.
@Liz: I don’t see how any of us will be able to do face-to-face summer school. And I agree, primary and secondary schools aren’t coming back for this year. We haven’t announced about summer school either, but it’s coming.
Yesterday I said to TheH, “I need to not freak out.” It took work, but I managed it. Today was better. Tomorrow will be less frantic than today. Then it will go up as we put the class stuff into operation and make adjustments to fix the problems, but at some point things will hit a rhythm. So definitely cut yourself slack! It’s a lot of work AND a lot of uncertainty, and you have kids to worry about as well.
At least spring is coming. 🙂
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@Ros: I’m so glad your annual leave is coming up, it will be a good break. Our week before everything hit the fan was wonderful and I know it helped us cope when we returned.
Stay well Sunita, hope you get some sunshine today. It’s a beautiful day here in Northern Ireland!
Thanks, Cathy! Sunshine really helps. We’re supposed to get some tomorrow or Saturday.