Stanford’s Staff Experiences “Disturbing Stress Levels” Due To Pandemic, Study Shows

Stanford University’s Faculty Senate has assembled its members in an online conference to hear about increasing stress related to the job, students’ challenges, strategies to adjust education to the online experience, as well as graduate support implementation plan and housing resolution for students.

Among others, throughout the meeting, the Faculty of Women’s Forum has presented the results of a survey organized by the same, which revealed that Stanford’s women suffer a significant stress increase due to COVID-19, especially pre-tenure and family obligated employees.

Professor of law Anna Joseph O’Connell and professor of medicine Sara Singer presented the survey results that show faculty members are especially concerned about their jobs and promotion reviews due to pandemics.

O’Connell and Singer stated that women were significantly more stressed than men.

“The Faculty Women’s Forum survey found that the pandemic caused “a lot more stress” for 57 percent of all respondents, with the number higher for women – 60 percent – than for men – 49 percent,” stated the publication.

According to Erudera.com, 36 percent of respondents said they were disappointed by how Stanford handled the COVID-19 situation.

“The highest dissatisfaction, which was 46 percent, was seen among pre-tenured faculty. Twenty-seven percent of those with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 indicated they are more likely to leave Stanford post-COVID,” claim the researchers.

Study shows that incredibly anxious people are said to be 61 percent of pre-tenured faculty, 61 percent of those with lower income than others and 62 percent of employees caring for children.

According to the study, Stanford staff’s main concern during the pandemic is care for children and other dependents, especially for women. In comparison to pre-COVID-19 days, 45 percent of respondents said they now spend at least four more hours as principal caregivers.

“Fifty percent of women and 33 percent of men said they were spending at least four more hours per day as a principal caregiver. Additional caregiver duties were highest among associate professors (52 percent) followed by assistant professors (48 percent),” the study reveals.

As a result of these challenging situations, the survey revealed that Stanford staff is spending less time working on research or other papers.

“The survey found that 75 percent of respondents anticipated spending less time on research, and 85 percent of those respondents said they expect to decline, cancel or postpone a publishing, proposal or research commitment because of COVID,” it further noted. 

The survey was open for thirty days and was sent to a total of 1,547 faculty members, from which only 527 responded.

“The survey was sent to all 710 women faculty, as well as 837 male faculty members – or about half the total – with dependents on their health insurance. Fifty-four percent of the 527 responses came from women faculty. Only 138 male faculty – or 16 percent of men sent the survey – responded,” the research claimed.

Stanford staff was encouraged, while filling out the survey, to express personal comments for their experiences during this time being.

“Some of these quotes are very disturbing about the stress levels faculty were and are continuing to experience,” O’Connell said.

Provost Persis Drell saluted the work of the Faculty Women’s Forum and credited the research findings. Drell stated that the University is attempting to ease its staff’s stress by adding teaching and administrative relief measures during and after the pandemic, increasing financial support, tenure clock extensions, and providing technical support.

“The pandemic has placed unprecedented stress on faculty and dragged on much longer than any of us had originally anticipated. We have been looking for ways to support our community,” provost Drell added.

Following provost, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne also encourages the faculty members to move forward.

“We will make sure we attend to those long-term impacts, not just in the coming weeks and months, but also in the coming years. Some people will be affected in very serious ways for a very long time, and we will not forget that” President Tessier-Lavigne stated.

Alongside presenting research findings, Sarah Church, vice provost for undergraduate education, also reviews the academic attempts university made in response to the pandemic. Church also mentioned the challenges students faced while studying remotely.

According to Church, the committee developed two websites, Teach anywhere and Teaching Commons, to support remote teaching needs, plan for in-person courses, and collect data about the online experience.

“We really had to redo and rewrite everything about the way we support educational activities at Stanford,” Church said.

Vice provost Church considers autumn 2020 undergraduate enrollment successful, reporting that 5,125 students were enrolled off-campus with 646 on-campus and 737 students using a flexible program that allowed them to take some units free. Only 10 percent of undergraduates chose to love during the pandemic. Church claimed that the winter quarter had approximately equal outcomes, only with a higher percentage of students leaving.

When talking about challenges, Church noted that 83 percent of undergraduates reported difficulty focusing on online classes. Sixty-six percent also said that classes weren’t adjusting well to the online experience. Also, 40 percent reported challenges in negotiating time zone differences.

On the other hand, vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, Stacey Bent, stated that she had received funds for 2021-2022, which will be utilized to support schools, departments, and students.

Bent’s strategies to support education are increasing the number of late-stage fellowships, developing a scheme that enables students to focus on assignments, and support for 12 months up to five years doctoral students and new students.

“The aim is to ensure that all doctoral students who have experienced significant COVID-related delays will be supported,” Bent claimed.

During this meeting, the Faculty Senate Steering Committee also shared a resolution from Associated Students of Stanford University, who appealed for unhousing fraternities and sororities on campus. ASSU differed from IFC and ISC organizations and the Multicultural Greek Council and African American Fraternal and Sororal Association organizations, which offer more housing for marginalized communities.

This conference also discussed the decision of the spring quarter return of students to campus.

“It has been to do our utmost to support members of our community in resuming activities and pursuing their aspirations, to the extent that it can be done safely and within public health guidelines.” President Tessier-Lavigne stated.

According to Stanford, the University is attempting its best to offer its students a meaningful experience despite the COVID-19 circumstances. 

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