UT-Austin asked professors how the fall semester is going. Here’s what some of them said.

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Photo Credit: Megan Fletcher | Daily Texan Staff

UT administered an anonymous survey to instructors at the beginning of September asking how the fall semester was going and what issues they encountered. Out of 2,596 faculty teaching this fall, 1,223 responded, said Kathleen Harrison, communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

Daniel Jaffe, interim executive vice president and provost, said in an email that professor feedback from the survey was enormously helpful in informing administrative decisions. He said he encourages faculty to continue sharing opinions.

“The pandemic has created a multitude of challenges for people everywhere,” Jaffe said. “The faculty at UT are no different. They must juggle the needs of their parents and children, concerns about their safety and that of their families, and their obligation to provide UT’s students with a first-rate education.” 

Here is what some of what professors wrote in the survey when asked to explain some of their concerns:

Some professors say classes have gone well and students have responded positively

“Students in all of my three classes seem focused, dedicated, and ready to work.  They are truly inspiring to me!”

“The reason why remote learning has gone extremely well is because of the students! They have attended synchronous sessions, have been highly engaged in the process, and provided me with feedback when I have requested it. … My current undergraduate and graduate students are demonstrating a commitment to learning, flexibility, and resolve that I have not seen in my 30 years as an educator. I am empathetic to those who are not having this experience … but to the students, this is fun, keep it up! I applaud you — the most flexible generation in U.S. history!”

"The important thing for everyone to emphasize is that we are all in this together, and to emphasize to the students that it will all be okay and we can still learn things in a way that can be fun.”

Professors see the pandemic as a new era

“It's just different. Very different. Teaching in person versus teaching online is like the difference between skiing and roller-skating. Sure, some skills transfer, but it is definitely a different beast.”

"I think people should quit worrying about online classes not giving students the same ‘experience’ as in person classes. These students are digital natives. They text each other even when they are sitting next to one another. They LOVE online classes (wear PJs, don't have to pay attention all the time, watch the recording later) … What exactly are they NOT getting online?”

Professors are tired from moving their classes online and hope the University recognizes their work

“I spent a lot of time this summer learning as much as I could about teaching in remote formats. I feel like it was time well spent, even if it was time I was not getting paid for. (I'm a (non-tenure track) faculty member.) I still worry that, even after all of the hard work I've put in, I will lose my job if the budget has to be cut. I love my students and my job, and I'm working so hard to do it the best I can.”

“I will say that I think we'd all be doing better had we just moved to completely online from the (get-go) and possibly had more training available. … I know it's hard to make everyone happy, but that was never going to be possible.”

“This feels like so much more work, and as much as I appreciate the emails telling me ‘Thank you,’ it's starting to feel hollow.”

“Teaching online is exhausting. Everything about it is harder on faculty than teaching in person. I did all the training, am good with technology, worked with (Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services), and it is still exhausting. … I can teach a 200 person class in person and feel totally energized at the end, as do my students. After doing the same online, I am completely drained and I still can't tell if my students feel the same way or not.”

“Some of us on nine or 10-month salaries worked all summer without a break or additional compensation. We are exhausted and more and more and more keeps being asked of us. Meanwhile we hear from the Tower about the importance of diversity and are still going to appoint another hand-picked white guy (by a hand-picked white guy) as president.”

 

Some professors are questioning UT’s COVID-19 response

“I think it's a terrible (immoral, obviously entirely motivated by economic greed) decision to host in-person classes this semester, and I wish that the University had made the right choice to reduce tuition and move to online only.”

“I am particularly concerned about the possibility that campus will have to close. If it closes, or if there are outbreaks on campus, I'm concerned that a significant number of my students will either be so sick as to be unable to keep up with class and/or be disrupted part way through the semester by moving back off campus to stay somewhere else.”

“Why is it unsafe to bring students back to campus after Thanksgiving, but apparently totally fine to bring students back to campus at the beginning of fall, while the pandemic continues to rage?”

“I can't believe we are still planning to allow football games with tens of thousands of people in close proximity. This hypocrisy makes it difficult to expect any better behavior from students and totally undermines the (city’s) guideline that ‘socializing in groups of 10+ individuals outside of the same household are prohibited.’ Who is making this decision?”

“The leadership this summer and fall have been appallingly bad. The right hand never knows that the left hand is doing, the faculty have been left in the dark, (Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services) is too busy to help anyone, and the students are being hung out to dry — and will be blamed when everything falls apart some time in the coming weeks. A depressing and entirely unnecessary disaster in the making.”

Some professors are ready for the days of Zoom to be over

“It just FEELS wrong this semester. I KNOW we have to adjust, but it's too (quiet), too subdued, too reserved on campus. Speaking up in Zoom is hard for students. I'm doing all I can to reduce that barrier. … After teaching here for 8 years, these are definitely the hardest semesters so far. Please know we're all doing the best we can.”

“Teaching to a wall of silence on Zoom is horrible. It is better than exposing everyone to COVID-19, but it is a sad replacement for in person teaching.”

“Some Zoom backgrounds have been distracting (like memes), and some students are wrapped in blankets (despite having asked them to dress and act as they would in an in-person university classroom). But we don't have the capacity or desire to police minor things like that.”