Brenna Clarke Gray
At the beginning of the crisis teaching period of the pandemic, there were many calls for care: for each other, for our students, for our communities. And yet anecdotal reflections on care, particularly in “public” faculty conversations in spaces like Twitter, examined with frustration the gap between individual faculty attempts to enact care and institutional policies making care difficult to enact or ineffective in the face of larger systemic barriers. As the pandemic continues, this gulf has seemingly widened, with an increase in “return to normalcy” practice at an institutional level that does not match the on-the-ground experiences of staff and students. Care is strategically useful to the institution to cultivate on the micro level, between individuals; if individuals are enacting care, the institution can remain relatively indifferent to necessary structural changes. But care ultimately fails on the macro level when it isn’t supported by institutional structures (eg. an understaffed support unit), because care cannot be extracted in perpetuity.
In recent research about health care workers and burnout in the pandemic, new attention to the concept of moral injury (and its less trauma-dependent analogue, moral stress) has emerged to examine the psychological impact of front-line medical staff implementing policy at the behest of an institution that goes against the individual’s core values (Maguen & Price, 2020). Suzanne Shale argues for a more expansive reading of the concept, to go beyond front-line health workers and to encompass all aspects of working in a health care system in crisis (Shale, 2020). While examination of this as a framework for understanding teacher burnout exists (Colnerud, 2015), it has not been examined in the context of post-secondary faculty support, nor has its specific relevancy as a framework for understanding the pandemic experience within the university been explored.
This session will reconsider the impact of calls for care from the perspective of moral stress, and examine the possibilities — and structural requirement — of moral repair as we imagine a post-pandemic university, and will invite session attendees to reflect on their own experiences.
Colnerud, Gunnel. (2015). Moral stress in teaching practice. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice. 21. 10.1080/13540602.2014.953820.
Maguen, S., & Price, M. A. (2020). Moral injury in the wake of coronavirus: Attending to the psychological impact of the pandemic. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S131-S132. 10.1037/tra0000780
Shale S. (2020). Moral injury and the COVID-19 pandemic: reframing what it is, who it affects and how care leaders can manage it. BMJ Leader. 10.1136/leader-2020-000295
- moral stress
- faculty support