You Deserve a COVID Bonus

Faculty Deserve to Be Compensated for Increased Covid-19 Workload

As we have experienced firsthand, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly increased faculty workload in a variety of ways. First, the shift to remote learning in the spring of 2020 took a herculean effort on the part of faculty to convert face-to-face classes to remote learning. In the 2020 Covid-19 AAUP University-wide survey, 90% of faculty indicated they spent time over spring break converting their courses, and only those whose classes were already online reported not spending any time converting their courses. 19% of faculty spent over 30 hours working on their courses, and 60% of faculty spent 11 or more hours during spring break 2020 moving their courses to remote learning. The UCBA action team surveyed UCBA faculty members, and the survey revealed that UCBA faculty members experienced a higher increase in workload than faculty campus wide. 70% of UCBA faculty spent at least 15 hours preparing their classes for virtual instruction during the extended spring break. In addition, 70% of UCBA faculty worked an extra 6 hours or more per week during the remainder of the spring 2020 term, and 33% responded that they worked more than 10 hours extra per week.

Unfortunately, increased faculty workload extended well beyond the spring of 2020. During the summer of 2020, countless faculty made significant redesigns to their courses and completed hours of professional development to learn more about strategies for teaching synchronously and asynchronously online, hybrid, and hyflex as they prepared their fall courses for remote learning. Yet again in the spring of 2022, faculty were asked to shift gears and begin the first two weeks of the semester in remote learning mode with only 3 days’ notice. Good course design takes time, planning, intention, and effort. Each time we have been asked to shift, faculty have risen to the occasion and put in a significant amount of uncompensated labor to keep the university open and provide high quality education to our students.

In addition to the increased workload from the shifts to remote learning, several other actions by the university administration further increased the workload for some faculty members. 10% of faculty at UC reported that their units have increased their course load without providing overload or other forms of compensation. Meanwhile 23% of faculty indicate that their unit has increased course size since the onset of the pandemic, and 55% of faculty note that faculty searches were delayed or canceled as a response to the pandemic. In addition to the challenges related to rapid online conversion of teaching, curricular support and services, many library faculty members have also shared a similar experience regardless of responsibilities: increased workload and decreased resources, most significantly personnel shortages.

All this uncompensated labor came at great cost to individual faculty members. 55% of UC faculty incurred non-reimbursed expenses as a result of working remotely during the pandemic. In November of 2020, Course Hero surveyed 570 full and part time faculty at 2- and 4-year colleges, and the results of the survey confirmed the severe levels of burnout faculty have experienced during the pandemic. 74% of faculty reported experiencing stress transitioning to remote teaching, and 2/3 of respondents indicated they had a great deal of anxiety over trying to meet the mental health needs of students during the pandemic and noted that their stress levels were higher in November of 2020 than at the onset of the pandemic. Course Hero notes that 40% of faculty are considering leaving the academy, and many faculty are pessimistic about the future of the academy. In addition to fearing closures, program cuts, and job losses, 3 out of 4 faulty believe that increases in class size and changes in modality will continue and, as a result, the faculty members’ ability to provide high quality teaching and build relationships with students will be more difficult.

The time has come for UC to compensate members of the UC community (including staff) for their uncompensated labor during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unfair to expect the employees of UC to provide unpaid labor, especially now that we are moving out of the crisis, and as the Faculty Senate and AAUP Joint Report illustrates, UC has emerged in a relatively strong financial position. While faculty appreciate the three extra winter season days, RPT extensions for some untenured faculty members, and the words of thanks for our efforts from Provost Ferme and President Pinto, we deserve tangible compensation. Unfortunately, due to the nature of faculty work during the pandemic, the three additional days offered very little benefit for most faculty. Likewise, the RPT extensions were limited to a small number of faculty members and did not cost the university anything.

Across the country, many other educational institutions are providing financial compensation for the efforts of their employees during the pandemic, and the faculty of UC should be financially compensated as well. Universities and colleges recognizing the burden on faculty during the pandemic include Michigan State where in addition to three more personal days during the December holiday break, faculty received $1500 bonuses as recognition for their work during the pandemic. MSU’s President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. cited the following to support his decision: “There is great fatigue and stress in the campus community as we continue to confront this dynamic and ongoing pandemic,” and that “stronger caregiver support is needed as many are navigating significant personal challenges, in addition to substantial workloads.” Other universities and colleges, across the country and close to home, stepping forward to recognize the dedication and sacrifices of faculty since March 2020 include but are not limited to, Northern Kentucky University, Miami University, University of Akron, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University and California State University. California State awarded all CSU faculty a 4% pay increase in addition to a $3500 pro-rated COVID-service bonus with the faculty union President Charles Toombs stating, “We all thank Chancellor Castro for acting on this strong faculty commitment to rights, respect, and justice, where faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.” Not only do COVID-service bonuses with salary increases address the significant increase of uncompensated labor during the pandemic, the increase in compensation also begins to address the impact of inflation on faculty and their families as well as overload due to faculty position vacancies.

University of Cincinnati faculty have rallied on multiple occasions to provide the highest-level education and support to students during the COVID 19 pandemic. In addition to the numerous other personal and professional stresses of the pandemic, this has resulted in emotional and physical exhaustion with little time for rest. The words of thanks and appreciation from the University of Cincinnati administration are welcome. We ask now for action in the form of fair compensation for the last two years of unparalleled faculty commitment to the university during a world-wide pandemic.