COVID Impact Statements Guidance for Faculty
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in disruptions in faculty’s teaching, research, and service activities. Because of that, UConn is engaged in large-scale efforts to account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and find ways to provide needed support. UConn values and respects faculty and is committed to ensuring a supportive, systemic, and equitable response to the COVID impact.
As a specific strategy, the Provost’s Office has been researching COVID Impact Statements for inclusion in future performance review processes (e.g., Annual/Merit Review, PTR, and P&R). A COVID Impact Statement is a statement that can contextualize the faculty member’s performance and contributions with the impact of COVID as a reference point. The statement briefly describes the effects the pandemic has had on faculty professional opportunities and, accordingly, its impact on productivity, performance, and trajectory. It will be important to consider it in our existing evaluative structures for performance reviews (e.g., annual/merit review, PTR, P&R).
The MOA between the University of Connecticut and the American Association of University Professors dated March 16, 2021 includes the following provision:
“5. Through the academic year beginning August 2023, faculty will have the opportunity in annual reports and PR/PTR portfolios to describe the effects of COVID-19 on their research, teaching, mentoring, and service.”
The Provost's Office is working closely with deans, University Senate, and AAUP leadership to explore all options to determine how best to include these statements for consideration in subsequent years.
We encourage faculty to document the impact now while the information is fresh.
The pandemic has affected individuals in different ways. For many, it has been difficult. Moreover, there is clear evidence of disparities for women (see Brookings Institution, McKinsey and Company) and people of color (see Economic Policy Institute, Forbes, Smithsonian). For others, the impact has been minimal or has resulted in increased productivity and economic benefit, which further exacerbates existing disparities.
Regarding higher education, we must acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on individuals who are caregivers, part of families with school-age children in the home, impacted by illness or loss, new member of the community who has had limited in-person and other informal interactions with colleagues, and those who have had to function in isolation for extended periods of time. Specifically, the pandemic has resulted in a range of personal and professional disruptions, which in many cases have resulted in decreased productivity.
Although the pandemic has been challenging for many, there have been several reports in mainstream, scholarly, and higher-education-focused publications that have highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women faculty members, including those of color. Examples include, but are not limited to the following:
- New York Times: The Virus Moved Female Faculty to the Brink. Will Universities Help?
- Magazine: Pandemic Exacerbates Already High Levels of Stress Among Women Faculty
- Inside Higher Ed:
- Nature: The Pandemic and the female academic
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Opinion: In the wake of COVID-19, academia needs new solutions to ensure gender equity
- National Academies: Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in the Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
- PLOS Biology: Rebuilding the academy: Supporting academic mothers during COVID-19 and beyond.
Impact on Review
The COVID Impact Statement provides reviewers information they need to perform a fair, contextual, and equitable review of the faculty member’s performance and contributions. Evaluators are asked to consider these impacts as they apply departmental and college standards in faculty evaluation processes. Evaluators are also asked to recognize the individualized impacts of COVID and avoid universalizing these statements; for example, the same factor that presents an opportunity for one candidate may have presented a hardship for another. We are committed to finding ways to ensure the impact of COVID can be documented and that documentation used to provide context by which productivity is evaluated. However, it is important to note that the COVID Impact Statement does not change the standards for review or promotion, nor is it meant to be an explanation for not meeting standards.
How should units, schools/colleges prepare to consider COVID Impact Statements?
- Acknowledge the differential impacts of the pandemic on individuals
- Engage in discussions about such statements, including how they might be used, and what information would be especially useful or relevant should they be used as performance review processes
- Continue to focus on providing needed supports so that faculty can meet established standards
Writing a COVID Impact Statement
The COVID Impact Statement provides an opportunity to:
- describe the faculty member’s workload, performance, and trajectory before COVIID
- describe the impact COVID has had on workload, performance trajectory in each of the relevant areas of responsibility (research and creativity, teaching, advising, service, etc.)
- detail other types of professional impact on faculty work (negative or positive)
- describe how the faculty member has adjusted or plans to adjust their work in light of COVID to continue to re-build their professional trajectory
At their discretion, faculty members may, judiciously, elect to address personal circumstances that affected their overall professional productivity. UConn’s Human Resources department will develop guidance documents to support faculty with crafting their statements, including examples of appropriate and inappropriate information to include and share (see e.g., UMASS Best Practices for Writing COVID-Impact Statements).
List of possible COVID-19 Impacts
This is a list of potential impacts, both positive and negative, compiled from a review of information available from other universities. To be useful, faculty members must provide specific examples of COVID-19 impacts.
Impacts on Teaching
- Time spent switching to remote instruction, including efforts to obtain training on remote teaching techniques
- Challenging transition to remote teaching and learning due to class content, structure, objectives, etc.
- Additional time devoted to providing feedback to students
- Efforts to support students making the change to different modes of instruction
- Technological challenges that impede teaching and learning (e.g., lack of infrastructure supporting virtual instruction, including overloaded bandwidth and lack of quiet space)
- Additional mentoring or advising time required to assist or support graduate students, teaching assistants, or undergraduate students
- Differential impact of the pandemic on women, faculty of color, and students of color
- Opportunities to demonstrate innovation and creativity
Impacts on Research and Creative Activities
- Cancellations of exhibitions, performances, invited presentations, seminars, and/or conferences
- Lack of opportunity to travel
- Reduced access to human subjects for research
- Budgetary restraints from loss of funding
- Cancellations of fellowships or scholar-in-residence appointments
- Lack of access to study population, field sites, libraries and archives, animals, cell cultures, etc.
- Delays in having works peer reviewed because of pandemic
- Canceled or delayed events, activities, or work products
- Reduced access to facilities, locations, personnel, research teams, studios, venues, etc.
- Inability to set up lab, studio, or begin new research projects
- Need to pivot or shift research topics or areas of inquiry due to COVID-19 restrictions or emergent questions
- Opportunities to pivot scholarly activities to address emergent issues related to the pandemic
Impacts on Service
- Increased service to sustain department and other university operations
- Increased responsibilities for service or outreach to deal with pandemic-related issues (e.g., time devoted to assisting peers in transition to remote learning)
- Complications to external service such as editing journals or chairing conferences
- “Invisible” service to sustain departmental or other operations to support students