Inside Higher Ed
by Brandy L. Simula and Kate Willink
July 29, 2021
As colleges and universities emerge from the height of the pandemic period, providing spaces and opportunities for faculty members to process and reflect on their experiences during the last 17 months is an important component of moving forward. As we plan for the new academic year, pausing to acknowledge the trauma, grief and exhaustion faculty experienced during the pandemic is vital to helping them navigate the current stage of the pandemic.
Recognizing the Long-Term Impact on Faculty Well-Being
In our work with faculty members across multiple higher ed institutions, we have frequently found that while some are feeling excited and optimistic about plans for moving to fully in-person instruction in the upcoming academic year, many are experiencing significant grief, exhaustion and trauma from the pandemic and resulting sea changes to our professional and personal lives. In addition, uncertainty and anxiety about what the new academic year will hold -- and all the changes required in transitioning back to primarily or exclusively in-person work -- are causing additional stress.
For many faculty members, this summer is the first moment it has been possible to step back from crisis mode. In addition to spending significantly more time not only on learning new technologies and rapidly transitioning classes from in person to fully remote (and often then quickly shifting once again to hybrid and HyFlex models), faculty have also often been required to act as front-line mental health workers. While we have had frequent conversations with faculty who feel that the work of supporting students during the pandemic has been vitally important and rewarding, we also recognize the significant emotional labor and resulting compassion fatigue that results from providing that level of support over an extended period.