This is a tough post to write. I’m walking a fine line here, and I want to be clear up front about something. The Academic Technology team at CSU Northridge has done an amazing job responding to the entire scope of the COVID-19 situation on campus, whether it’s going online with classes or the campus being shut down. With the Faculty Technology Center, we have trained faculty through 15 workshops a week for 2 weeks straight (same schedule moving forward) on topics ranging from Zoom to Canvas to lecture capture, we’ve produced maybe a dozen videos to supplement these training sessions, and we’ve met with hundreds of faculty online and over the phone. We have expanded and supported many extended hours – nights and weekends – with students and staff. On the User Support Services side we’ve most recently prepared around the order of 350 computers for loan to administrative and academic departments around campus. Staff have come in on weekends to prepare these machines. Data & Analytics and the Universal Design Center have both done amazing jobs, as well.
Most importantly, the teams have come together in new ways. There were more than one occasion when I’ve basically asked all my direct reports – from 5 very different areas – to come together and just brainstorm on how to accomplish something. Literally just get a bunch of smart people in a room and “make it happen.” They did it. They succeeded. The team has done everything I’ve asked them to do and I could not be prouder of each and every member of the overall Academic Technology team.
But…it hasn’t all been ponies and rainbows. I listen to other stories from around the country and hear what seem to be these smooth transitions to online and easy responses to campus closures. I know that’s not the full story, but even on a recent Leading Change Institute “alumni” call, for the most part we started off with all these success stories. Most importantly, it seems that everyone is happy pushing through on this (not happy to be doing it, but happy in spite of all the craziness). People are having virtual happy hours, social gatherings, and overall doing…pretty well, it seems.
I know it’s not just us but…it’s been rough at times. We’re running ragged, yet I ask for more. Morale is low with some staff, yet I urge people to keep going ever forward. Time is a valuable commodity, yet I…demand (?) more videos, more workshops, more high quality content that we can share. I’ve had to pull out the “it’s the President that asked for this [output]” card a few times (I’m not that kind of manager, usually).
And we’ve missed a few times. I certainly know I have. Case in point – the whole “zoom-bombing” thing. I tweeted about it a full 2 days before we ran around with our hair on fire creating a web page about how to secure one’s zoom session (no, we didn’t have any incidents, but you need this information to be online even if it hasn’t happened). I was just so tired that, while I could hit “retweet,” it didn’t dawn on me that we needed a page. How did I miss that? How could I put the university at risk like that?
All these stories about success…they have been inspirational, and disheartening, in many was and at the same time. Again, I want to be clear – Academic Technology has done an amazing job and it’s not the output that I’m talking about. It’s the fatigue, the wearing down of people, the morale issues, and the fact that I simply can’t stop asking for more that is my point.
This is one of those cathartic posts, where I don’t really have a “big” culminating point that I’m trying to address. I’m just venting, I guess. If anyone has any words of wisdom (encouragement always welcome, too, of course, but I’m really seeking new ideas on morale in situations like this, how to balance asking for just enough but not too much, etc), I appreciate it.