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Support offered for UNM faculty during COVID-19 pandemic

October 28, 2020 - by Kim Delker

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for many faculty at The University of New Mexico and nationwide, but help is available. Various groups and offices on campus, including ADVANCE at UNM, are working with UNM leaders to support faculty.

The prolonged closure of schools and childcare centers, for example, makes it difficult for faculty parents and caregivers to get the support they need for research and teaching. Across campus, faculty research has suffered due to the inability to gain access to laboratory spaces, work with human subjects, and travel to field sites, among other barriers, said Mala Htun, School of Engineering special advisor for inclusion and climate.

Flexibility is critical, as ADVANCE’s informal consultation of faculty found that many are facing challenges.

“Faculty we hear from, particularly caregivers, are more exhausted and stressed with each passing week,” said ADVANCE Director Julia Fulghum. “Many people are unable to do more than manage their teaching and family demands and are painfully aware of the delays in their research and scholarship.”

ADVANCE at UNM has compiled information and resources on a special website.

In addition, UNM leadership has introduced strategies and reformed policies in a variety of ways, including:

  • Voluntary, temporary reductions in FTE for faculty who may request a 1-course reduction for Spring 2021 by changing their contracts to 0.93 FTE for the academic year, as negotiated between the administration and UA-UNM.
  • Automatic one-year tenure clock extensions for all assistant professors. Check out the policy and FAQ. Faculty may opt-out of this extension and may postpone the decision until May 1 before the fall they were originally scheduled to be evaluated.
  • Student evaluations of teaching for Spring ’20 and Fall ’20 can’t be used in annual performance reviews unless faculty choose to include them.
  • UNM Human Resources has a page on childcare resources that includes instructions on how to advertise for in-person or virtual help from a student on the UNM student employee website.
  • The UNM Office of the Provost website now has a Faculty-Relevant COVID-19 Policies page.

To guide academic leaders and faculty on how to conduct a fair evaluation for tenure and promotion in the wake of the pandemic, check out Htun’s short piece published in Science in June 2020.

ADVANCE will continue to post updates on relevant COVID-19 policies, teaching resources, and more on its website and is publishing its faculty development workshops.