In this issue:
Connie Kendall Theado, AAUP-UC President
I’d like to share with you all some of the insights I gained from reading James Lang’s op-ed piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education last month. The title of his article is “The Healing Power of Learning” and it caught my attention because I’ve been recently reading around looking for resources about trauma-informed approaches to pedagogy and other general lessons college educators have learned from the pandemic.
As we are all uniquely, intimately aware, Covid-19 created a serious disruption in education across this nation and around the world. According to UNESCO, 91% of students worldwide have been impacted by the pandemic. More, in a 2021 survey of just over 2000 college students, it was clear that, collectively, their mental health has been negatively affected since the start of 2020: “specifically, 91% reported stress or anxiety, 81% reported disappointment or sadness, [and] 80% reported loneliness or isolation” (Thompson & Carello, 2021, para. 2).
You will be unsurprised to know that faculty have also been experiencing impacts from the pandemic as well, with 74% of women and 63% of men reporting their “work-life balance has deteriorated” and 82% of women and 70% of men noting that their “workload has increased” since 2020 (Thompson & Carello, 2021, para. 3). Teaching during periods of crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic, “presents faculty, staff, and students with uncharted tasks, unexpected obstacles, and unanticipated emotional labor” (Thompson & Carello, 2021, para. 4).
All these things we all already know.
Lang’s (2022) op-ed, however, tells a different story, offers another kind of lesson about crisis and trauma-informed education. Confessing that he didn’t “give much thought to the subject of trauma-informed education until the pandemic really hit its stride” (para. 3), a recent health crisis of his own, he writes, put into stark relief the importance of gaining a fuller understanding of these pedagogies. Diagnosed with a heart condition that led to a transplant and a subsequent stroke, Lang talks about being in “survival mode” as his body has recovered but notes, as well, that “the healing of [his] mind has been slower” (para. 5).
What has been his way through? Practicing a “productive kind of dissociation” from his recent health crisis, he explains, in which he can “lose himself” in new experiences that can later become meaningful experiences (para. 13). Not unlike a lot of academics, he notes, he found reading to be a place where he has been able to lose himself most completely, dissociate most productively. For Lang, it was a book about ancient Greece in a used bookstore that caught his attention. He writes:
I bought the book, read it with absolute fascination and pleasure, and then
bought another volume by the same author, and finished that one, too. I’ll
never teach or write anything meaningful about ancient Greece. These books
won’t contribute much to my professional life. But the time I have spent in
their company has helped crowd out of mind all the memories of hospital
rooms and stricken faces, and the anxieties of illness. (para. 15)
“Could those same healing powers of learning,” Lang asks, “help many of our students, too” (para. 16)?
And of course, his answer is yes. Of the many things his traumatic experience taught him, Lang suggests that being reminded of the “role that faculty members play in giving students an opportunity to lose themselves in the fascinating and beautiful subjects we bring to the classroom” has been the most meaningful. “We should not lose sight of the fact,” he reminds us, “that learning can be a joyful experience—and a healing one, too” (para. 18).
As we turn our attention to summer and as we continue to keep a good thought that we’re also turning the corner on this pandemic, I hope you’ll let Lang’s story remind you, too, of all the good you’re doing for all of the students you’ve been teaching, and mentoring, and tending to in myriad ways these past few years.
Lang, J. (2022, March 23). The healing power of learning.
Thompson, P., & Carello, J. (2021). Envisioning change: Writing the stories we need to read. In J. Carello & P. Thompson (Eds), Lessons from the pandemic: Trauma-informed approaches to college, crisis, change. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-83849-2_1
What Does It Mean to be “an Educator”?
This year has seen a change in provostal policy regarding new hire lines at Blue Ash and Clermont College. Previous tenure-track lines are being replaced with Educator lines, and new positions are being hired as Educator lines, even in departments that have never used that job classification. This change is creating new problems and significantly exacerbating old problems.
The title “Educator” first appeared in the 2010-13 AAUP-UC Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Former AAUP-UC Executive Director Dave Rubin explained the background, “The qualifier “Field Service” was being misused. Field Service was intended for Faculty Members whose work obligations did ‘not involve regular classroom instruction’ but usually did include significant interaction with agencies or communities outside the university. A good example was in Professional Practice (now Experience-Based Learning and Career Education, or “ELCE”) where Faculty Members were engaged in setting up internships for students with co-op requirements. However, that Field Service qualifier had been increasingly used as the default title for hiring someone, in a non-tenure track position, who would mainly teach a heavy load but not have the same research requirements of the tenure-track Faculty Members. The AAUP and the Administration agreed on the Educator title to correct misuse of the Field Service titles and to use as a means of consolidating part-time adjunct positions into full-time faculty teaching positions while allowing the University to retain some flexibility.” This change primarily impacted colleges like Arts and Sciences and ELCE.
The use of the Educator title was less appropriate and not significantly utilized at the regional campuses. Faculty Members at Blue Ash and Clermont have teaching loads that generally are significantly higher than the teaching loads on the main campuses. And, while there are research and professional development requirements for the branch campus, the research requirements are generally not as extensive as they are for the main campus Faculty. Given that all Faculty Members, including Educator faculty, should at times be involved in professional development, and that some involvement in research often improves the quality of teaching, the distinction between tenure-track Faculty Members and Educator Faculty Members at the branch campuses is not as great as it may be on the main campuses.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) states that there are two different board classifications of faculty (see articles 1.1.1 and 1.1.2). “Unqualified” (tenure track and tenured) and “Qualified” (“Clinical, Educator, Field Service, Practice, or Research”). Therefore, there must be distinctions between the actual work of those two broad categories, and it can’t just be that one category gets tenure and the other does not. Many of the Educator faculty lines requested at the two branch campuses this year, and approved by the Provost, have exactly the same duties, job descriptions, and expectations as tenure track lines. This violates the CBA.
The new Educator positions have created other problems as well. Sarah Cummins-Sebree, Chair of Behavioral Sciences at UCBA says “Our RPT criteria for full-time faculty requires professional activity, which often includes pedagogical workshops, conferences, and research. You’re asking Educator faculty to do the same work as tenure-track without the benefits that tenured faculty get. They don’t get the safety net or the security to experiment and try new things. Our teaching culture is to try new things and experiment. Someone will be less of a risk taker if they are afraid that at the end of their contract, they won’t be renewed.”
Cummins-Sebree argues that the University is damaged by “This notion that those who teach more are not viewed the same as those who research more. By not providing tenure, you’re basically saying the educational mission of the university is less important. You can’t have a University without the teaching.”
Heather Moore, Chair of the UCBA Allied Health Department, stated “There aren’t very many nurses who want to be in education, and even fewer who would take a non-tenure track position. It’s closing the door on our opportunities to find quality faculty. We have nothing to entice them.”
Moore’s department has developed a new program, Health Care Support Technician, with new, multiple micro-credentialing for entry level health professionals, in line with UC’s strategic sizing, but they won’t be able to offer it this fall due to a shortage of faculty. “Fall 2022 is supposed to be the first semester of this program, and we have no faculty to support it,” Moore says. “The first search, as Visiting, failed. The second, as Educator, is also failed due to lack of any applicants, let alone qualified ones.”
In the English, Languages, and Fine Arts Department at Clermont, a tenured faculty retirement in English Composition is being replaced with an Educator line, after other vacated tenure lines have remained unfilled in recent years. The search for that position failed, just as Moore’s did. Sharon Burns, Chair of that Department, is concerned that “The voice of the faculty is going to become so diluted that we will have little influence on University governance. In a tenured system, you keep diluting that voice, and what happens to the system? Faculty are that system. We keep this up, and education is going to be in real trouble.”
The Clermont Social Sciences department developed a new Communications degree, with the understanding that it would come with a tenure-track hire to support the new program. Instead, an Educator line was approved. Interim head Drew Shade recounted that the majority of the department decided that if they said “no” to the Educator line, they worried they might not get anything at all. Despite serious attrition due to retirement, resignation, and deaths, that department has not had a single new hire in more than five years. Shade says “It pains me to think that the Provost might not know what we do. That could be why he’s giving us Educator lines when we need tenure lines.” Shade notes that while Educator positions may work well in other colleges, they will not be a good fit for his department’s disciplines.
As is common with the University of Cincinnati, it is unclear if the Administration’s actions in replacing Tenure Track lines are an act of ignorance or intent. The repercussions are clear. Faculty continue to feel that their role at the University is neither understood nor valued. Clermont and UCBA continue to be relegated to second-class status. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these actions call into question the educational mission of the University. In the current national environment, the teaching component of academia is under direct threat. As teachers come under increasing scrutiny—and even harassment—for teaching accurately and ethically, the protection of tenure to encourage bold, innovative teaching is even more necessary. We call on the Provost to reverse this damaging practice and invest in teaching as integral to UC’s values and priorities.