Due to growing stressors linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Faculty Senate is supporting temporary adjustments in academic workloads during the spring 2021 semester.
Approved as a resolution in a Dec. 1 meeting, the Faculty Senate is asking instructors — if feasible — to limit or redistribute coursework in the spring, allowing students (and instructors) to have less intense periods of study.
The resolution is in response to growing concerns about added stress placed on students and instructors who are dealing with COVID-19 concerns while balancing a full course load in a shortened academic schedule. The spring semester will be the second in which the university has eliminated traditional days off — such as fall and spring breaks — and condensed the academic calendar to discourage travel and limit potential exposure to or spread of the virus.
“While shortening the semester is a key part of the university’s multi-layered response to the pandemic, we’ve found that compressing the schedule has increased the stress levels for our entire campus community,” said Nicole Buan, president of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of biochemistry. “We maintain that faculty have the freedom to teach their courses according to their expertise and to professional standards. However, to help reduce stress in the spring, we are asking them to consider whether adjustments can be made to prioritize self-care and to anticipate ways to accommodate mental health needs of their students.”
Suggested courses of action include:
Up to four “Reading Days” offered throughout the semester schedule, which would allow for course readings, completion of assignments and or projects, and group study;
A weeklong “Testing Holiday” (possibly March 15-19), during which classes meet, but no major quizzes or projects are due;
Increasing quiz or test retakes or grade replacement opportunities; or
Any other activities at the discretion of an instructor.
The Faculty Senate is also asking any participating instructors to identify within syllabi any curricular adjustments made to promote self-care. Instructors are also being encouraged to regularly promote the university’s wellness resources — including Big Red Resilience and Well-Being, Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education.
“We know our instructors are carrying an additional load during these shortened semesters,” Buan said. “We are also encouraging them to find time for self-care. The university offers a number of resources for faculty and staff, many of which are available through the Employee Assistance Program.”
The complete resolution on adjusting curricula for the spring 2021 semester is available on the Faculty Senate website.