Compassion in Crisis

April 10, 2020

Dear faculty colleagues,

With two weeks of remote teaching and learning behind us, I wanted to send you this note and thank you for all you are doing.

A common theme I’ve heard from faculty members is how much effort and energy it takes to teach, take meetings and correspond with students online. The energy we get from our daily interactions from colleagues and students cannot be replicated through Zoom. Our current way of working can be exhausting. 

I’m not teaching right now, but I am experiencing what it is like to be on Zoom meetings all day. We’re working from home and doing our best to balance the other demands in our lives. Like many of you, I have children who are home and I’m observing first-hand the challenges they too face in switching to online instruction. My son, for example, is a sophomore. This is a kid who loves the intellectual rigor and challenge of college. Yet, in his third week of online classes, I can can see his motivation waning. He feels disconnected. He misses the energy of the classroom, the interchange with his peers, the support of friends late at night in the library, and just being on campus. He is struggling to meet deadlines for papers and problem sets.

This is true for students everywhere. And many are facing significant challenges. At home, some students are providing care for family members or working to support them financially. Some are living in other parts of the country and world, which puts their course schedules in conflict with their daily schedules. We have heard about students who may not have had trouble in the past and are now struggling to focus during lectures. They are worried about the impact of this on their grades. Mental health concerns among students are rising. Students with disabilites face acute challenges to fully particiapte in online activities. And, despite our best efforts, some continue to have technology limitations beyond their control, such as poor internet access. The campus has responded in unbelievable ways to accommodate students in need, and I want to thank our faculty who have done so. 

I ask that we continue these efforts. Please work with your students to make reasonable accommodations and to help them feel engaged, whatever their challenges. They deserve flexibility and compassion, as do we all in this unprecedented time. 

I cannot sufficiently convey here how proud I am of the way this campus has come together, made major adjustments to the ways we do our work, and remained committed to our teaching mission. It has taken the whole campus working together, and the faculty are the foundation that makes it possible.

My sincere thanks and well wishes.

Maurie McInnis