The pandemic of 2020 has brought unforeseen challenges to all, and higher education faculty are no exception. There may be no vocational position that has seen more significant challenges from March-May 2020 with faculty members and teachers worldwide having to alter their methods of content delivery, methods of student examination, and maybe more importantly, forced to reconsider what education means during a worldwide crisis.
While most are appropriately focused on the 'big picture' somewhat lost in all of this upheaval is how this could affect your efforts toward tenure and promotion. With universities and faculty members having the additional burden of figuring out how to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on their research programs, how to move forward in your career can bring uncertainty and a bit of confusion.
At the time when our daily concerns with the virus have passed, being aware of how the pandemic affects your P&T progress should be on your radar. Hopefully, many academic institutions will be sensitive to the situation. For example, my institution has decided that student class evaluations would not be used in our next annual review, to offset potential negative reviews caused by the transition to all online education. However, while our class evaluations may or may not be affected by the pandemic, it is the other costs that should be considered.
While you may feel like much is out of your control at this stage of your career, here are three steps you can take to keep things moving forward toward promotion and tenure.
Almost every research faculty member I know has to deal with the curtailment of data collection and their research programs. Many researchers in the life sciences have seen their science abruptly stopped for many weeks causing disruptions in project completion. These disruptions will most undoubtedly delay manuscript publication and even grant submissions.
Since the completion of research depends on each part of the cycle moving forward, the cessation of data gathering brings the whole process to a standstill, resulting in fewer accomplishments like papers and grants, which should be noted on your CV. Also, the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of professional society meetings, which means fewer presentations, less networking, and much less chance for young faculty to make a mark on their field.
If you are a young faculty member, you may not have had a data bank that you could use during this downturn. If this is the case, consider writing reviews. For example, take the big literature review you did for your dissertation, spiff it up and include your dissertation data, and turn it into a literature review that you can work to get published. By integrating your current data into a review and getting it published, you will have one more item to list on your CV, and that's what you need for promotion and tenure.
If you have data already collected that you can turn into publications, analyze and publish the data. Now is the time to write and get published!
What Can You Control?
Can you work on becoming a better teacher or learn a new aspect of teaching? What can you do within the teaching arena that raises your level of instruction? By focusing on what you can do instead of what you can't control, you will demonstrate your ability to make something good out of a bad situation, and that's what your P&T committee will see as well!
Keep your research moving along and stay in contact with your administration about how this will affect your promotion/tenure cycle.
Ask your Department Chair about how the University will protect you during this time. They may stop your tenure clock for a year. I've heard about one large midwestern R1 University that has already given every pre-tenure faculty member an extra year on their tenure clock if they want it.
Remember, do what you can within your area of research, see what you can improve with your teaching, and stay in contact with your Department Chair and administration. Yes, the pandemic has turned the academic world upside down and hindered your progress, but how you deal with this interruption speaks volumes regarding your level of maturity and value as a potential tenured academic.