#Dispatches Resumes: COVID Impacts by Career Level, Part I ~ Assistant Professors

As of today we are resuming our #Dispatches From the Frontlines Monday series, where we crowdsource questions to get a broad indication of how our readers are coping with various challenges.

Right now, #Dispatches continues with COVID (you can see earlier posts here and here). For the next few weeks I will share responses to the question: How has COVID impacted your career? Due to the massive number of responses, I will be dividing responses by career level.

This week I begin with Assistant Professors. I will follow with NTT/Adjuncts/VAP next week, and then Tenured faculty and then Grad students and postdocs.

Bolding added for emphasis.

New #Dispatches Question will be opened for responses in a few weeks’ time.

NOTE: Please remember that we invite respondents to list their own identifying details. We mostly do not edit these. Respondents share what THEY feel is significant about their identity.

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ASSISTANT PROFESSORS DESCRIBE IMPACT OF COVID

Money has become my top priority, even though I originally had other strategic goals for the year. I may have to carry some of my students longer than expected or keep them on as postdocs. My responsibility to my students doesn’t end when their dissertation does! So, I’m redirecting resources into grants and other funding applications. [Assistant Professor, STEM, Cis bi Jewish woman]

~~

Short-term, all I can think about is getting through the day at home and doing the things I must do like clinical supervision and dissertation committee work. Long-term, I’m wondering if this is my time to leave academia. If kids are home in the fall, I just can’t imagine being productive. I was burned out before COVID, but I was managing. Now I’m burned out x2. Burned out on homeschooling and academia. My research has stopped because I conduct community research. My graduate students are managing their own stress and personal experience with COVID. The impact will have an effect on my research well beyond the one year tenure clock extension. Really thinking about leaving academia. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, 39, African-American, woman, married, 3 kids (2, 5, and 13). I am in my second assistant professor position. I’ve already received extension due to husband’s medical issues. I was offered another extension due to COVID. Wondering if I’ll ever go up for tenure.]

~~

I’m up for tenure in a couple years and I feel like my position is secure IF my school makes it (private non-elite SLAC). I wasn’t (and am not!) very concerned about tenure per se as I have cleared the bars already. I went tentatively back on the market last year because of concerns about my long-term satisfaction with this job, but all of that is off now. Head down, get tenure, work like hell to make my school one of the ones that survives while keeping my CV competitive just in case. Besides which, the pandemic has made me really see the benefits of living in a location that was suboptimal in our previous collective life.[Assistant Professor, STEM, Mid-30s white cis female]

~~

Immediate plans are weeding out the nonsense. Turning spare time to help with COVID 19 policy making. Focusing on my students and their well-being. Long term less service. I’ve done enough. Have identified goals as grants and team building and publications with broad rules for each. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, Reader post 92 UK University female]

~~

Our annual salary increase was redacted. My husband, though, just finished his master’s and was applying staff position at the same university but the search was frozen. He’s currently still on the job market. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, 35, Asian, female, married, immigrant in the US]

~~

It has not affected me financially, and I have some survivors guilt about that. I used to be an adjunct and if that was still the case, I would be sunk. I have donated more money than ever in the past several months, mostly to support Black organizations. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, 33, cis, woman, married, 2 young kids]

~~

Losing money. Partner has gone 8 weeks without receiving unemployment benefits but is still furloughed. Paperwork is fine but waiting to be “verified”. Can’t contact unemployment offices [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, White man gay 33 years old partnered]

~~

I’m getting laid off. [Assistant Professor, Humanities, 49 white lady]

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I am taking a pay cut in my first year in a tenure track job due to budget cuts. I previously worked as an adjunct and then NTT after that so I already feel “behind” in terms of time in a tenured position as well as in salary. I have also lost several thousand dollars in gig money (musician) and from my teaching at various summer programs which were canceled. I’m concerned that these losses (both financially and in the tenure clock) will further harm my earning potential as a young, female professor. [Assistant Professor, Arts/Music/Theater, Female, married, early 30s]

~~

We will have one furlough day per month. I am the sole provider for a family of six. I’ve had to take on side jobs (related to my expertise) to try to make up for the lost income. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, Female, Asian American, 40s]

~~

I had to take on summer teaching to make ends meet for our family. My husband’s PT job just stopped scheduling him during COVID. He was not fired, furloughed, or laid off. That meant we couldn’t get unemployment and related incentives, nor the paid incentives his job was offering (an extra $2/hour) for those with shifts. He didn’t work a single day for 3 months. This meant that after a combative spring semester shift to distance learning (where our admin made the decision on a Friday to start distance that Monday, against all faculty recommendations), I was exhausted like everyone else. But we were staring down not being able to pay our mortgage, and I’m a medium-income assistant professor in an affordable area of the country. I signed up for a summer course that paid $6000 before taxes, another luxury compared to other faculty, but that doesn’t get paid out until the end of the summer. And it also means I have not gotten a break from teaching since August 2019 (I also taught a winter term course for extra $). In the interim, we’ve had to open 2 new credit cards for necessary living expenses (on top of the 2 we already have). Only 1 of my student loans let me postpone until September. Our health insurance through my university (which both my spouse and I are on) is on a July 1-June 30 annual plan, and premiums just went way up with the new plan July 1st. My employer stopped all contributions to retirement “indefinitely” when they previously contributed 11%.  It feels like we are drowning, and I’ve had some pretty dark thoughts that I’m ashamed of — like what if a car accident just took us out? We don’t have kids, it wouldn’t be that huge of a loss, we’d be free from this financial nightmare, and someone else who needs a TT job could take mine. (I am seeing a therapist and have no plans to hurt myself…just trying to paint a picture of how dire things feel here). I’ve applied to an administrator job at another institution and also have been perusing industry jobs that I don’t feel qualified for, which makes everything feel worse. Not like we could afford to move right now, even with a new employer’s assistance. [Assistant Professor, Professional, 35, Cishet white woman married to a man; 11 years of FT teaching experience. No kids, but we took on FT childcare for 2 kids for the first 4 weeks of the pandemic for a relative on the front lines of health care. It was bananas.]

~~

My university cut our retirement funding match and eliminated our research and travel budgets. If students don’t come back to campus they will likely cut our pay. Administrators have already taken voluntary pay cuts  [Assistant Professor, Humanities, Late 30s, white woman]

~~

for now I’m holding steady. I was expecting a 15% raise this year (merit + correcting for my low starting salary), but that probably won’t happen. no pay cut, though, so I’m currently okay. I just have to be really cautious about my car (was hoping to replace soon with a better-condition used car), and figure out which home repairs to prioritize.  [Assistant Professor, Humanities, 39, white, cisfemale, heterosexual, single]

~~

Lost 30% of my startup and 15% salary during negotiation due to covid. But the offer still went through.[Assistant Professor, Stem, 35 married white cis het f. Accepted faculty position in May. Start date Jan 2021]

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My pay has been cut 20% at my current institution. Research funds down 40%. An offer I got in March for a different academic institution had a spousal hire offer for my partner as well, but then when the economy collapsed they downgraded my partner’s 3 year visiting offer to a 1 year with no renewal. So we couldn’t take the offer. [Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, female, arab, 29 years old, heterosexual, married]

~~

Pay cut by 10% for 3 months. Later informed that after the 3 months, it would be decreased to 6.5% indefinitely in light of COVID-19. Hiring freeze also arose so it was initially thought to hire grad students, but it ‘worked out’ since I bring in 88% of my salary. [Assistant Professor, Public Health (not sure if this is considered STEM in your eyes); yet connected to a Medical School), 37, African American, Male, Married, R1 institution]

~~

Both me and my partner had a 3% pay cut and also our university stopped contributing to our retirement accounts. We have a 6 and a 9 year old, we will be paying a fortune in the fall to get them care as the schools won’t be open in NYC fully but our work surely has doubled. [Assistant Professor, Humanities, 42/Caucasian/  married with two young kids also partner is a full-time academic]

~~

My university did not provide usual annual 2% salary increase and stopped 401k contributions for 4 months (for now). Since classes were taught remotely, I was not commuting for 1.5h daily so it helped me save on some babysitting costs. [Assistant Professor, Health Professions, Female, married,  mother of two young kids]

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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