4 Things That Feel Harder Than Ever This Academic Year

Have you noticed that some things about higher ed work seem more difficult this year than ever before?

Here, I’m not considering the range of challenges related to educating and caring for our students. Those difficulties are numerous and are much more important and worthy of thought and consideration than my list.

1. Meeting Scheduling

Never before in the history of higher education have there been more meetings. As meetings moved to Zoom during the pandemic, we could schedule more meetings. There is no travel friction, no needed time between meetings, and no constraints of physical meeting space. The result was a proliferation of meetings. Coming back (mostly) to campus this fall, we did not change our meeting behaviors. Everyone is now booked all the time. The professionals who have as part of their job scheduling meetings have one of the most complex jobs in all of higher education.

2. Managing Combined In-Person/Online Meetings

We not only have more meetings, but those meetings are also often mixed-modality affairs. In before times, it was okay to miss a meeting if you were traveling or had a family thing you had to deal with. Nowadays, the norm is to zoom into a face-to-face meeting if you can’t be physically present. This is great in many ways. Our work is more flexible. In other ways, managing mixed in-person/online meetings is super hard.

3. Our Kids and Work

The structures that enable parents to work in the paid labor market seem to be falling apart. Quality childcare has become nearly impossible as childcare centers can’t find enough staff. Schools are canceling after-school programs as a result of staffing shortages. The sorts of supports that I took for granted before my kids left the nest are no longer reliably available to today’s academic working parents. All of us need to recognize the challenges of our colleagues with kids and do whatever we can to support them. After all, today’s kids are tomorrow’s college students.

4. Event Logistics

One of the best things about returning to campus is participating in campus events. How awesome is it to see colleagues in real life that you have not seen on anything but a screen in two years? Planning events of any size, however, is a big challenge. First, you must decide if the event is a mixed in-person and virtual gathering. We know those are hard to pull off. Scheduling the event at a time when a critical mass of people can attend is almost impossible, given that everyone is in meetings all the time. And planning enough ahead of time for the event logistics, such as setup and food, has become ever more complicated with endemic staffing shortages.

What are you experiencing that feels more difficult than ever in your academic work?

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