While many faculty respondents supported aspects of the Forward to Fall Guiding Framework, most had reservations about the overall plan and many expressed negative opinions about the plan, according to a survey done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
The survey was sent out in August 2020 to around 1,800 faculty and staff members about the university’s Forward to Fall Guiding Framework.
According to the AAUP UNL August 2020 Faculty Survey Executive Summary, more than 700 of the individuals contacted returned completed survey questions, 687 of which identified themselves as faculty.
Overall, the results indicated that faculty respondents felt that UNL had a very poorly thought out COVID-19 testing policy compared to other universities, according to the summary.
The results also showed that even though faculty respondents appreciate that a plan exists in general, they have mixed feelings about their ability to implement the plan and feel even more uneasy about their ability to ensure their own and students’ safety.
“I regret that we will apparently have to wait for the inevitable large outbreak on campus before making the decision to return to remote instruction,” a respondent said in the survey.
Nearly two-thirds of the 687 faculty respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the Forward to Fall plan was communicated to them in a transparent and effective manner, according to the summary.
However, only 32% of faculty respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the Forward to Fall plan sufficiently considered faculty and staff needs, especially fears regarding their own physical and mental health and well-being.
Over 50% of faculty respondents reported spending more than 40 hours in preparation for hybrid and online courses, and 15% reported spending more than 160 hours, according to the survey.
Matt Cohen, vice president of the UNL chapter of AAUP and professor of English, said in an email that the survey was conducted because there were several concerns, including the health and safety of UNL’s faculty, staff and students.
“The AAUP is also always concerned about the degree to which faculty are involved in the processes that affect the university, where faculty governance is a basic tenet,” Cohen said.
About half of the respondents that identified as faculty members said they agreed that they were aware of the general process by which the Forward to Fall plan was created, according to the survey.
However, a majority of faculty were unaware of the extent in which the committee included faculty participation in decision-making about instruction and other aspects for the fall semester, according to the results. The quantitative survey results showed that faculty largely perceived the process as having little input from faculty and staff.
“We wanted to know whether faculty felt safe doing face-to-face teaching, and we wanted to know whether they felt that they’d been sufficiently involved in the process that led to UNL’s approach to fall instruction,” Cohen said.
Cohen said there were many faculty members qualified to give advice about whether face-to-face classes were a good idea and what policies for instruction might be the most equitable and effective for student learning.
“The committee that made these plans was chaired by an administrator with a business degree,” one respondent said. “...When UNL wanted a better hot dog shooter, they went to the mechanical engineering department, not a committee of administrators. I cannot understand why they didn't use local expertise for something far more important.”