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Orient survey finds most faculty approve of College’s fall 2020 plans

August 6, 2020

A survey conducted by the Orient and sent to all Bowdoin faculty members shows that most approve of the College’s plan to bring some, but not all, students back to campus. Of the 65 faculty members who participated in the survey, 86 percent approved or strongly approved of the plan, three percent disapproved or strongly disapproved and another 11 percent neither approved nor disapproved.

The survey was sent to all 200 faculty members; 65 faculty members participated for an approximately 33 percent response rate. Eighty percent of survey participants were tenure-track professors, while 20 percent were visiting professors, lecturers or other. The Orient survey did not correctly label the title for full professors and instead incorrectly labeled this title “Tenured Professor.” There was a separate option for “associate professor,” although associate professors are tenured professors.


Marginally fewer faculty members approved of the plan not to bring sophomores, juniors and seniors back to campus, although the vast majority are still in support of it, with 81 percent approving or strongly approving. Eight percent disapproved or strongly disapproved and 11 percent neither approved nor disapproved of this aspect of the plan.

“I wish we could have in-person classes; that is what I want. But I don’t think we can do that safely,” wrote one faculty member in the survey’s comments.

“I find Bowdoin’s plans extremely bold and pragmatic. I feel proud to be at a college that doesn’t go after students’ room and board and instead prioritizes the health and welfare of everyone in the community. I’m deeply satisfied to be at a place that views and values me as a human, not as an expendable CV,” wrote another faculty member.

FALL PREPARATION

Over the summer, the College has given faculty access to new technology and resources to prepare for remote learning. One new resource is the Bowdoin Online Learning Team (BOLT). Of the surveyed faculty, 64 percent of approve or strongly approve of BOLT, 13 percent disapprove or strongly disapprove and 23 percent neither approve nor disapprove.

The survey found that 74 percent approved or strongly approved of the support they have received from the College during the transition to remote learning, with eight percent disapproving or strongly disapproving and another 18 percent who neither approved nor disapproved.

While preparing for the fall, some faculty commented on the lack of compensation for the summer.

“Faculty are not paid during the summer. And now we have to transition our courses during unpaid time. You cannot expect this huge amount of labor without pay,” wrote one professor in the survey’s comments.

“I, like many of my colleagues, am committed to delivering the best learning experience possible this fall for my students who deserve the best. However, it is galling to have to do so during the summer, an uncompensated period of time, traditionally reserved for making progress on large and complex research projects. Unfortunately, I will not finish my book this summer as anticipated because of the uncompensated time I have spent in formal workshops, department meetings, committee meetings and informal meetings with colleagues at Bowdoin and beyond, preparing for the fall. The uncompensated summer labor and reduction in retirement contributions (essentially a pay cut) will continue to have an impact on my professional progress and future earnings,” wrote another faculty member.

ANTICIPATING FALL COURSES

Faculty are adapting their courses for remote learning in different ways. Survey results showed that the leading changes professors are making are to the mode of delivery, assessments and course materials. However, approximately 32 professors plan to incorporate the College-issued iPad Pros into their course plans. For this question, faculty members could choose as many choices as apply.

Of the faculty who responded to the survey, 46 percent are excited to teach students remotely, while 22 percent are not excited. Another 32 percent are “maybe” excited to teach remotely.

The College also announced an updated fall 2020 time block schedule. Fifty-five percent of the faculty approve or strongly approve of the schedule, 19 percent disapprove or strongly disapprove and 27 percent neither approve nor disapprove.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

In addition to teaching, faculty members will continue to conduct research and publish work. In response to the question: “I am worried about…” 38 faculty members noted concerns about being able to conducting research.

“I am also worried about having enough time to do some research, as I have commitments to my field (journal articles due, editorial work, serving on executive committees, reviewing manuscripts and promotion files, etc.),” wrote one faculty member in the survey’s comments.

Last semester, the College opted out of conducting the formal Bowdoin Course Questionnaires (BCQs) because of the quick shift to remote learning due to COVID-19. However, the College announced it will reinstate and require BCQs at the end of the fall semester. Of all aspects of the reopening plan, the faculty were the most divided on this decision, as 38 percent approved or strongly approved,  31 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved and 31 neither approved nor disapproved.

The College has also implemented a hiring freeze of which 44 percent of the faculty approve or strongly approve, 14 percent disapprove or strongly disapprove and 41 percent neither approve nor disapprove.

RETIREMENT

The College announced to the community on June 22 that it will reduce retirement contributions for all employees by 50 percent beginning in September and lasting throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. Of the faculty surveyed, 46 percent approved or strongly approved, 24 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved and 30 percent neither approved nor disapproved of this plan.

“The College is asking faculty and staff to put more work in to absorb the impact of the pandemic and still offer an outstanding learning experience for students, and that is reasonable. We all have to do our part. However, the College should no[t] reduce retirement contributions or any other benefit at this time, just as faculty and staff are being asked to work more hours under more stressful conditions,” wrote one faculty member.

WORRIES

Faculty had the option of selecting multiple aspects that they worried about. Of those, the faculty’s leading concerns were “motivating students” and “connecting with students virtually.” Additionally, “balancing work and life,” “conducting research” and “adapting course material from an online setting” were also major concerns.

In regards to health, 17 percent of the faculty are scared for their health and their family’s health due to the College’s fall plans, while 64 percent were not scared. The other 19 percent responded that they were “maybe” afraid for the health of themselves and their family.

Many faculty members elaborated on their concerns in the comments.

“I am very worried about caring for and homeschooling my young children while trying to continue to work full time. It is physically and emotionally exhausting and I worry I will not be able to do anything well because it is simply not possible or sustainable. Many professors with dependents (children or aging parents) are in this position and there are no easy answers,” wrote one faculty member.

“Workload. Especially with school-aged children and a spouse who is not an academic and has a less flexible job,” wrote another faculty member.

“Having first-year students on campus, and what happens if there is an outbreak here,” wrote another faculty member.

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One comment:

  1. student says:

    “wrote one faculty member”, “wrote another faculty member”, etc.
    Why do faculty members’ comments need to be anonymized? They are adults and probably have tenures. If they cannot express their opinion freely, what does it say about tenures at Bowdoin?

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