Addressing faculty concerns about research and creative practice

August 12, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

It is our sincere hope that you and your respective families are experiencing some of the respite that summer usually provides.

We are writing to share with you some of the action we have taken in addressing concerns identified in the Survey on Faculty Research and Creative Practice, which we launched during the last few weeks of our spring 2020 term, as well as issues identified by the Center for the Study of Women in Society. We received 329 valid responses from our UO faculty, and we are very grateful to everyone who took the time to provide input.

The survey inquired about the extent to which COVID-19 is having an impact on the research and creative activities among faculty across all ranks. Additionally, it inquired about the specific stressors and impacts, as well as direct internal and external support strategies meant to provide relief. The results of the survey are accessible here, while we provide below a summary narrative of the major findings in the “Survey Highlights.”

Survey Highlights
Consistent with the research findings nationwide, faculty research and creative activity have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. More than half of the survey respondents reported being impacted by heightened stress or worry, while a little under half indicated that their research was impacted by caretaking pressures.

The faculty also reported being significantly impacted by a lack of access to space and their usual research tools, inadequate work environments, increased household responsibilities and increased teaching/mentoring burdens. At least a third of survey respondents (roughly the size of the percentage of faculty of color who also completed the survey) indicated being negatively impacted by racial trauma, which experts describe as mental anguish and/or emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and discrimination.

Also, faculty respondents identified the following areas of needed support: assistance with childcare; ease of academic time pressures (tenure and promotion clock, temporary relief from service load or increase in research leave time); and access to campus labs, offices, creative spaces, and research subjects. Faculty respondents also expressed concern about vulnerability of non-tenure-track faculty, as well as the additional time and energy spent caring for and mentoring students.

The survey results reflect a great sense of urgency in the midst of the trying times facing all of us. We appreciate the dedication of faculty, staff, and students as we put our minds and energy together to move forward. Below are details on some important next steps. We will also be utilizing input from campus leadership and a nimble group of diverse faculty to guide the next phases of action.

Equity, Anti-racism, and Faculty Support
As part of a larger campus plan to nurture faculty and ameliorate racialized trauma, we have taken the following immediate steps:

  • Partnering with vice presidents and deans during summer 2020 to identify specific action steps and plans toward building equitable, anti-racist departments as the foundation for retaining existing Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian faculty, staff, and students
  • Piloting a one-year, trauma-informed coaching resource for faculty to be launched in fall 2020
  • Establishing an Active Retention Research Group focused on identifying and putting into place factors that promote faculty retention
  • Developing cultural competency and anti-racism education/professional development for students, staff, and faculty, with a process to be finalized by December 2020
  • Harnessing the best practices, innovation, and transformative work of existing diversity committees into a university-wide community of practice focused on equity and anti-racism (winter 2021)
  • Within a month, the Office of the Provost will announce more information on key initiatives involving diversity, hiring, and equity

Caregiver support
A small team comprised of employees from Student Life, Human Resources, and the Office of the Vice President of Finance and Administration has been working on several caregiver support initiatives and has seen significant progress and momentum. The group is mindful that caregiving includes everything from childcare to eldercare. These initiatives focus on near-term actions to assist the caregivers in our community, and the team is operating and pursuing their work with a sense of urgency, understanding that action is needed now versus in months. Initiatives include:

  1. A UO hosted and created electronic platform that will (1) assist those in the UO community seeking care in being able to search and identify interested providers; and (2) allow interested providers from within the UO community (e.g. students) to submit their information so it is visible to those seeking care. Initial development is complete with further legal review and refinement is underway.
  2. A UO hosted and created electronic platform that allows families to post and search information related to how they may be able to partner or assist each other with meeting specific care needs. This will be a way for those in the UO community to network and find collaborations and facilitate building connections, particularly as we continue in a more remote stance than usual both on campus and in the community (e.g., k-12). Initial development is underway with further legal review and refinement forthcoming.
  3. A single, centralized UO website for all caregiver resources. Currently, caregiving resources can be found on several existing university department webpages (Human Resources, Student Life, etc.). By combining all resources on a single website, users will have one location to go to and gain assistance. Communications is assisting the team with a 3- to 4-week development schedule.
  4. A local childcare provider is engaged with team members in determining whether there is on-campus space available for them to use for providing additional onsite school-age childcare this fall. Some limited space that may meet the provider’s basic requirements for childcare has been identified. Further review of the space and this opportunity will be required to determine the safety and efficacy of this approach, given the pandemic and the responsibility to manage safety for our entire campus community.
  5. “Parenting During the Pandemic” discussion session - This open discussion session is an opportunity for UO employees with children to connect with other parents. The focus of the session is to provide parents a space to share ideas, strategies, and resources for working from home with children. The sessions will be hosted by UO colleagues who will be there to listen, help prompt discussion, and to offer suggestions for related resources available to employees. Sign up is required in order to manage the size of the groups in order to facilitate dialogue. Forums for student parents are currently being planned.

    Register on the MyTrack Learning module and Zoom details will be sent out to all participants who sign up prior to the session.
    Session Dates are:
    Thursday, August 20, 2020 – 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
    Tuesday, August 25, 2020 – 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 – 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  6. A new Employee Relief Fund was announced and resources are available to eligible employees with qualifying events or expenses which include childcare/eldercare needs during COVID-19. The fund will continue as long as resources remain available.

    ASUO childcare subsidies continue to be available for student parents, including graduate students (and GEs). Federal CARES Act Grants applications will be available again in September through the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships for students who are dealing with serious financial disruptions related to COVID. The Students in Crisis Fund through the Office of the Dean of Students is also available for students who are ineligible for the CARES ACT Grant and dealing with a financial crisis.

Service and time limitations
During the emergency of the spring term and the need to pivot quickly to remote instruction, the Office of the Provost asked that units relieve or reduce service obligations for faculty. As we recognize the ongoing impact of the COVID crisis, we need to carefully evaluate how to navigate essential service while postponing or eliminating activities that are deemed non-essential or critically time-bound until there is some resumption of more normal functioning on campus. The provost is asking that all non-essential service be postponed over the coming academic year. We have taken the following steps thus far to relieve service loads and continue to look for ways to reduce service demands on faculty time.

  1. Instruction to departments to determine essential and non-essential service:
    Recognizing that what is essential is often a local decision, all departments have been asked to convene and to discuss as a faculty essential service for the coming year and to address equitable principles of allocating, including considerations of those faculty with increased caregiver responsibilities, faculty rank, and other professional responsibilities. We have identified three overarching principles to guide department conversations about what is essential and non-essential service:
    • the importance of shared governance;
    • building community/support within departments; and
    • advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
    With those principles set as foundational, each department head has been asked to convene a faculty meeting to discuss essential service and provide the outcome of the discussion to their dean. It will also be shared with the Office of the Provost.
  2. Teaching evaluations:
    In the spring term, the Office of the Provost waived student and peer evaluations for all faculty. During the summer, that review process was also modified with an opt-in approach for faculty wishing to have student feedback. The CIET has been asked to develop recommendations for teaching evaluations for fall. Those recommendations will be discussed with Senate and United Academics leadership.
  3. University-wide committees:
    We have suspended a number of review processes, including Core Education course reviews, and initiation of planned program self-studies and reviews. Senate leadership is also addressing the work of senate committees to reduce non-essential work or work than can be postponed for a year.
  4. Defining and quantifying service for equitable allocation:
    Longer term, a joint administration/UA committee convened in winter 2020 focused on service, and how it is defined and distributed across our faculty with the goal of making sure service obligations are clearly defined and equitably distributed. That committee has been on hold since the COVID crisis began but will resume meetings shortly. At the time of resumption, it will increase senate representation to the committee. Moving forward, we need to continue to work through this committee and with academic leaders to define and equitably distribute service among our faculty.

Impacts on promotion and tenure

These are clearly extraordinary times in terms of what expectations for normal productivity might entail. We have already implemented a process for tenure-track faculty to “stop the tenure clock” and delay reviews for one year due to the impacts of COVID. This tenure review delay is in addition to those delays already available to faculty, including those due to approved leaves, childbirth or adoption, or other extraordinary circumstances.

We are in the process of developing approaches to other review periods, including all post-tenure reviews that are responsive to challenges that the COVID pandemic presents to faculty. We will be working with our faculty groups to determine if a delay, per se, is most supportive or simply regular review with appropriate acknowledgment of the circumstances will work best. Clearly, future reviews will also be affected by this disruption, as they will for all faculty on a national level. Future tenure and promotion procedures will need to take this disruption into account. Specific plans on these actions will be released in the fall following input from appropriate faculty and administrative units.

Access to campus spaces

Faculty who need to gain access to campus for space that is more conducive to productive research and teaching have two options available:

  1. If your department or research lab has developed a resumption plan that has been approved, you should be able to access the spaces (e.g., offices, labs) as articulated in the plan. Your department head can provide clarity on whether a plan is approved and what allowances it includes for accessing campus.
  2. If your department has not yet developed a resumption plan, or it has not yet been approved, please continue to use the campus access form. The forms can be found at:

Please keep in mind the requirements to wear face coverings indoors, except when alone in an enclosed room with an office, and to conduct a symptom self-check prior to coming to campus. Do not come to campus if you are having COVID symptoms.

We are committed to supporting faculty, and all members of the UO community, as we collectively continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic. We are appreciative of the time faculty took in completing the survey and to the leaders of CSWS for raising vital issues. We are hopeful that the steps we have already taken will have a positive impact, and look forward to sharing more with you throughout fall as we continue to address them.


Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh
Vice President for the Division of Equity and Inclusion