UMD Provides Approaches and Resources to Address COVID-19 Impacts
By: Jaime Williams
The University of Maryland (UMD), like many other universities, has been working to provide faculty members with a range of supports to help them manage the impact of COVID-19 on their careers and lives.
Some of the new accommodations include reformulating tenure and promotion criteria in light of the pandemic’s impact on scholarship and teaching.
A survey of the academic colleges at UMD initiated by the ADVANCE program found that three reported revising their APT policies to be consistent with campus policies on tenure delay, updates to the APT Manual, and incorporation of the COVID-19 impact statements into dossiers or annual reporting. Another six colleges are currently in the process of making such modifications. For some, COVID-19 spurred the revisions, but for others, revisions were already underway.
Three colleges are also exploring how to update the appointment, evaluation, and promotion (AEP) guidelines for faculty members on the professional track.
Eight colleges indicated that they encouraged faculty members to document COVID impacts on their teaching, scholarship, and/or service. The primary mechanism mentioned was the optional COVID impact statement, which can be added to both annual reporting in Digital Measures and to the candidate’s dossier for promotion. Respondents for several colleges mentioned that their ADVANCE Professor had held sessions to guide faculty members on documenting the impact of COVID, and/or that they had encouraged their faculty to attend the Office of Faculty Affairs workshops on this topic.
Seven colleges reported that even before the pandemic they did not not ask external reviewers to compare candidates for tenure and/or promotion to others at a comparable stage in their careers when requesting letters of evaluation. Three colleges reported that revisions to remove such requests were under discussion or in process.
Because external letter writers often compare candidates to other scholars whether or not they are prompted to do so, the invitation template letter to external reviewers was modified to not to include such comparisons in their evaluation.
In regards to modifying workloads and easing non-essential activities, all colleges reported that their units had delayed non-essential activities (e.g., curriculum development) in alignment with Office Of Faculty Affairs guidance.
It appears that most workload modifications were made on an ad-hoc basis as a result of negotiations with individual faculty members. Three colleges reported extending course and/or service releases to individual faculty members to accommodate pressing individual situations. Several colleges noted that additional accommodations likely occurred within units.
11 colleges reported on the ADVANCE survey that holistic teaching evaluation techniques (e.g., peer evaluations) were already in place prior to COVID-19. Four colleges noted that this was only in place for TTK faculty members.
One college (ARHU) reported that one unit had created a fund accessible to faculty members for work-life emergencies. Three colleges noted that they had worked with units to provide resources and funding to accommodate individual faculty members on an ad-hoc basis related to work-life issues.
Two colleges provided pandemic-related research funding; four colleges reported ad hoc arrangements for fund reallocation if requested by individual faculty members. Four colleges provided emergency funding for graduate students (who presumably could have supported faculty research). Four colleges reported adding teaching assistants on an ad-hoc basis at faculty members’ request, and a handful of colleges indicated they had put in place different kinds of teaching support (e.g., technology assistance).
Finally, 11 colleges reported opening up opportunities for communication between faculty, department chairs, and college administration (e.g., virtual forums, town halls with college leadership and faculty, staff, and students). The colleges indicated that these sessions had been well-attended. Furthermore, ADVANCE professors were often cited as the lynchpin for social connection and access to resources for women faculty members, especially those on the tenure track.
Other forms of support mentioned by colleges include reaching out to institutional peers to learn about best practices (ENGR) and a happiness and wellness initiative (SPH).
Family Care Benefits Already Being Used
By: Linda Steiner, OFA and Rythee Lambert-Jones, UHR
In less than one month, two percent of UMD benefit-eligible employees have already registered for the family care benefits now available through Care@Work by Care.com. Of those who registered, 85% visited the website to search for childcare; the rest looked for pet care, home care, elder care and tutoring.
The University pays the monthly premium membership fee for all Regular Faculty and Staff, Contingent II, and Graduate Assistants. Employees can search for and get access to providers vetted by Care.com at reasonable rates.
Another significant aspect of the benefit is that the University subsidizes the cost of up to 10 days of backup child/elder care (i.e., when regular care is suddenly unavailable), with rates depending on salary. Available 24/7/365, backup care can be used for children (in-home or in-center) or adults/elders (in-home only). Users can get partial reimbursement for a provider in their own personal network (friends, babysitters, even family members). Statistics so far indicate that nearly 80% of those needing backup care for children either had a sick child or the regular sitter was unavailable.
The UMD contract with Care.com also provides for a discounted rate for part-time and full-time use of participating childcare centers across the U.S.
University Human Resources, whose office and website houses the new suite of benefits, is now hiring a program manager to answer questions about these benefits and to coordinate information about family care resources.
A Caregiver Options Workgroup began last fall to identify the kinds of family care challenges the UMD community was facing. The committee conducted a needs assessment survey in December, reviewed information from peer institutions, and investigated a variety of ways to address family care needs.
With the enthusiastic support of President Pines, the Care@Work benefit was announced March 29, and registration began in early April.
Information about Care@Work and access to a wide variety of caregiving resources is available at https://uhr.umd.edu/benefits/family-care/.
UMD Mentoring Guidance
The Office of Faculty Affairs has established updated mentoring guidance. This document is to guide unit heads, deans, and faculty members on
- the particular requirements around mentoring at the University of Maryland;
- recommendations from the Office of Faculty Affairs on optimal mentoring beyond the requirements; and
- best practices for strong mentoring and developmental networks.