My post as UFE Chair began in June of 2020 with intense negotiations around budget issues and faculty furlough, as well as safety and workload conditions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Now we are at the end of Winter Quarter 2021, and looking back over the last year, I wish I could say that things have mellowed out. Alas, the realities of living and teaching during a global pandemic are still with us, and likely will be for some time to come.
To where can we turn for hope? My three year old likes to make lists of things she will do “after coronavirus is over” including “having friends again,” going to the children’s museum, swimming in public pools, and going out for ice cream. I am so glad she continues to remember that our current isolation isn’t normal life and that she has found a way of coping in dreams of the future. Yet, I find I need to source my hope from the present.
I draw hope and inspiration from my Evergreen colleagues – in addition to being a creative, caring, and intelligent group of scholars, you have shown yourselves as adaptable and resilient as we transitioned to online learning in Spring and Summer Quarters of 2020. Now, many of you are adapting again by developing creative ways to safely offer some in-person instruction and by finding better and better ways to engage students online. You are constantly pitching in for the college and going above and beyond, and you are doing this during a furlough year. I am humbled by your work and dedication.
I also look to the UFE as a source of hope and gratitude. Out of this pandemic have come troubling stories from universities across the country of faculty layoffs and required in-person teaching (like this example from the U. of Florida, where students were asked to tell on professors for not teaching in person ). Knowing we are protected by the several MOUs the UFE has negotiated related to COVID safety and working conditions over the last 9 months gives me a sense of security in a time of many unknowns.
There are challenging times ahead. As vaccinations become more widely available, our institution continues to struggle with enrollment and budget issues. I fear that over the coming year the UFE will become more essential than ever in its history. Please know that your UFE colleagues are hard at work for all faculty as we began to negotiate the new contract, address budget challenges, and as our community works to maintain the balance between worker safety and the needs of the college and our students.
Thanks to each of you for the work you are doing. You are the heart of this college.
Shawn Hazboun, UFE Chair