Admiration and appreciation for Butler faculty members

Photo courtesy of Jessica Ruscello via Unsplash. 

MEGHAN STRATTON | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | mrstratt@butler.edu

Last week I was prepping for my advising appointment, overwhelmed and stressed about having the right courses to graduate on time — a familiar situation to many Butler seniors, I’m sure. I was in a small state of panic — until my academic advisor joined the meeting. From the get-go, she listened to my anxieties about next semester and calmly offered solutions and suggestions.

Beyond that, she asked me how things are going in my current classes and how I’m faring as The Collegian’s Editor-In-Chief. I found myself confiding in her about the struggles this semester has brought about, and within 10 minutes, she solved my mini crisis. It was one of those conversations where everything just … clicks.

I’ll be honest with you, usually I’m the first one to complain when a professor has a messy Canvas page or forgets to move their mouse off the YouTube video, inhibiting the full screen experience. It’s easy to whine about the small things, and I know we’ve all had our fair share of stress, aggravation and near-existential crises this semester in particular. But lately I’ve been thinking about how much Butler professors are dealing with. And I, for one, have not been giving them enough credit. 

Back in the spring, many departments at Butler underwent budget cuts to offset the financial effects of COVID-19 — and therefore had to let numerous adjunct professors go. Now, professors bear the brunt of the work that used to be shared by adjuncts, whether it be teaching more sections of courses, advising more students or handling more administrative work.

Not only are many faculty members teaching more courses, but those courses had to be reformatted to be compatible with online and hybrid structures. Moreover, professors may have overhauled every aspect of a course to facilitate college in a pandemic. 

Some will say that professors signed up for this job, so we should expect them to be able to juggle all of these challenges with a smile. But frankly, that’s bullsh*t.

One of my professors teaches every Monday and Wednesday with half the class on Zoom and half the class in person. She took everyone’s wishes into consideration by offering both formats, but this method may have created more work for her in the long run. Can you imagine having to facilitate productive, interactive activities for students on a screen and in a classroom simultaneously? I know I can’t. 

Some professors may not have expected to teach online. Some professors may not have ever taught a hybrid course before. Some professors may be trying to get through to blank Zoom screens instead of blank-faced stares in a classroom. And some professors — and students — struggle immensely with technology. All humor aside, no Canvas training module could have prepared professors for the reality of this fall 2020 semester. 

In a “normal” semester, Butler professors are expected to keep students’ individual situations straight. Now, we’re in a viral pandemic in which being aware of an individual’s circumstances is crucial to controlling the virus. And beyond simply containing COVID-19, what happens if a student in their class tests positive? The professor may now have to make additional accommodations or exceptions for that student, on top of everything else. Butler professors are expected to show empathy and understanding in a world where they might not be getting any in return. 

And just a reminder, professors are also handling 14 weeks of this situation without a fall break. 

Butler professors deserve our appreciation, recognition and patience now more than ever. We shouldn’t assume our professors are handling everything perfectly — they have a LOT on their plates, and we can’t expect them to perform flawlessly. 

Quite literally, this university would not function without their incredible work. 

I recognize this time is stressful for everyone, especially with the upcoming finals season and two looming months of seasonally-depressed work from home. There’s likely more than one thing that hasn’t gone your way this semester. But I’m here to remind you to grant your professors a bit of grace and appreciation for everything they’re doing for you. 

Be understanding when your professor takes more time than normal in grading your paper. Be empathetic when it seems like everything is a bit too much for them. Ask them if they’re okay and be willing to listen, whatever their answer. 

Going into college, no one expects their professors to be the therapists, mentors and role models that they are at Butler — and they certainly don’t get extra compensation for that. We are incredibly lucky to attend a school at which these close professor-student relationships can thrive. At many larger schools, students are lucky if they have one of these relationships, much less several of them. We cannot take these relationships for granted. 

As a senior, it’s coming into perspective for me just how short our time is at Butler. This is my last semester with some of my professors I’ve had since my first year, many of whom have supported me when I didn’t even know I needed it. It’s time to give that same support in return.  

If you take nothing else from this article, tell your professors what they mean to you. Tell them how they’ve helped you and changed you as a person. With everything that they have going on, let them know their work is valued. And that it’s okay when they don’t move their mouse off the YouTube video… sometimes!

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