Another dot in the blogosphere?

Cruel policy

Posted on: August 23, 2021

This news surprised me: A local university seemed to insist on in-person classes despite some staff and students being stuck overseas.

This information was published in a local newspaper on 18 August but was already reported on elsewhere on 10 August.

The TODAY paper reported that the university:

…is facing criticism because it is the only one of Singapore’s main universities where students and faculty staff members stranded abroad are unable to study or teach online until they are able to enter the country.

Staff and students are overseas and having trouble travelling to Singapore due to strict border restrictions. They have had to struggle with issues like dropping out, being put on no-pay leave, getting courses cancelled, etc.

The earlier article revealed that: 

…academics who have been granted compassionate leave, and thus allowed to teach classes remotely, will be paid only for the days that they teach.

…based on this payment system, a professor whose classes are clustered within two or three days will be paid only for those days, while another with the same number of teaching hours, but with classes spread across all five days of the week, will receive full pay.

As a former academic, I feel for the teaching faculty who are affected by bean-counting administrators and micromanagers. I borrow an argument from that same article on valuing teaching faculty: 

…academics do work, even on the days they don’t have classes, and that teaching online might even require more work in terms of planning and coordination than in-person lessons.

The university policies probably do not make sense. If teaching staff and students are stuck overseas for legitimate reasons and both have the capacity to teach and take classes online, why not do that? 

Have we learnt nothing from enforced remote teaching and learning due to COVID-19 lockdown? Why return to normal when you can do better?

Looking elsewhere, some faculty take to Zoom as a fact of life. Take Dr Inna in her tweet above as an example.

Teaching online is not a substitute for a campus experience. But it is better than cancelling classes, treating people like numbers in a spreadsheet, and implementing cruel policy.

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