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Leaning Into Uncertainty: Ensuring Quality Legal Education During Coronavirus: Roundtable 5: Maintaining Morale and Community Among Faculty and Staff

A supplemental page for the Leaning into Uncertainty Conference.

Roundtable 5 Discussion Questions

Instructions for the Group

Please focus on one of the two topics below: odd-numbered breakout groups will address the first topic; even-numbered breakout groups will address the second topic. All groups are also asked to consider the “all groups” prompts below the two topics. You may use the subquestions as prompts to anchor and shape your discussion, but do not feel the need to address each one, or to go through them in order. Some may feel duplicative, but are trying to spark a range of responses; use and edit the prompts as your group finds it helpful to do so. 

Topic 1 for Odd-numbered Breakout Groups

How do we maintain the type and amount of morale and positive culture that existed in our community before COVID-19?

  • Morale

    • Start by very briefly identifying what your group means by morale. It’s okay to disagree, but understand in your group if you include mental health, mood in the building, job satisfaction, a combination, or some other term or set of terms. 

      • What sources of morale did your community rely on before the pandemic?

      • How is your community used to connecting in person, and might that be replicated online? How so?

      • What are you missing, or do you imagine you will miss, the most? Grief over these losses is real. What will your law school do to cope?

      • What would it look like to treat faculty, staff, and students, with compassion?

  • Culture

    • Start by very briefly identifying what words, activities, or traditions capture your culture--before the pandemic. Each school has its own spirit and culture, and to the extent that you are aiming to preserve, or to recapture, what existed before, it’s important to start by identifying what that culture was, and what you think it was that made it so (and may make it so again).

    • Given the things you identify as central to your culture, which ones can transition easily:

      • To a fully virtual world

      • To a partially virtual worl

      • To a socially distant/partially on-campus world?

    • What can you do to encourage faculty to share ideas and resources as they discover ways they can make the shift to remote instruction better? What can you do to facilitate faculty collaboration, with other faculty, with staff, and with students?

 

Among the other questions you might consider under Topic 1 are: 

    • How do you continue traditions that are important to the life of the law school?

    • How do you structure your school’s online relations in ways that provide ease along and informal structure given the formality of scheduling online meetings?

    • How do you replace unplanned serendipitous conversation that occurs in hallways, elevators, lounges, and offices? 

    • Include other questions your group would like to ask or answer, and you can plan to report out in the harvesting session or in this google doc.

Topic 2 for Even-numbered Breakout Groups

How do we build new traditions and norms in this moment to create growth? Can we use this incredibly challenging pandemic to improve our law school’s culture and foster greater community cohesion?

  • Growth

    • What opportunities for growth do you see to build new cultural norms or implement new practices?

    • What does the remote working environment make possible that was impossible before?

    • What does an inspired scholarly culture look like in the middle of a pandemic?

    • Are there opportunities for scholarly engagement and impact that didn’t seem present before, or that seemed less pressing, than the pandemic makes them now?

    • Or is scholarship on hold, and what does this do to morale, and to culture?

  • Equity

    • What role can considerations of equity play in shaping your post-pandemic culture?

    • How do you bridge differences that may have become visible in this crisis including age (if older faculty and staff feel less comfortable with technology), gender (if child care becomes difficult and division of labor at home is unequal), race (if COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on people of color, as early reports suggest) and socioeconomic group (if access to technology, and the privileges associated with effective social distancing can’t be taken for granted by everyone in our community)?

    • Is your school thinking about vulnerable and immuno-compromised populations, and what role do/should they play in your thinking about maintaining morale and building community?

  • Efficiency

    • In what ways might you need to adjust (maybe even overcompensate?)  for what your culture may have lost, by establishing new habits that are much more intentional than the old ones? 

    • In what ways are your community members achieving certain savings in time or other resources that might enable a different calculus or even budget?

    • What are elements of pre-pandemic culture that could be improved or strengthened at your law school?

  • Among the other questions you might consider under Topic 2 are:

  • Can you identify limitations in the traditional ways of doing things now that you have forcibly shifted to remote instruction and remote work?

  • How might you introduce new ways of doing things without seeming to turn your back on tradition or precedent?

  • How do you encourage communication and connection among those who work at the law school? And how do you foster the relationships between students and their faculty and staff?

  • Include other questions your group would like to ask or answer, and you can plan to report out in the harvesting session or in this google doc.

Topic for All Groups

  • How are these techniques different (or not) for faculty and for staff?

  • How are these techniques different (or not) when interacting remotely and when we are in our building but with physical distancing measures in place?

  • How are these techniques different (or not) when applied to faculty’s mission of teaching and mentoring students versus to our scholarly research mission?

  • Who are the people in your community who can lead such efforts?

  • Are there people in your community who might impede such efforts, and can you understand both why that is, and what to do about that?

 

Finally, if you have questions, suggestions or documents to send after the session that you did not get a chance to convey or that you were unable to share, please feel free to email them to [zahr@uw.edu and billmcg@umn.edu

Additional Resources