Are you an extrovert who used to enjoy face-to-face meetings but now find yourself exhausted after a day of video meetings? Wondering why they take so much more out of you than do typical F2F efforts? Have you started showing up, logging on, and tuning out? Considered just running a loop of yourself looking like you are paying attention because you’re so tired?
In the rush to remote teach, many of us have adopted new tech without thinking carefully about the implications for ourselves of using it.
If you were to design an online course, you’d take your time to evaluate each kind of technology before you added it to a class, but some of us skipped that step in the pivot to remote teaching, especially if we were pressured (or pressured ourselves) to embrace this crisis as an opportunity to build stellar online courses rather than see it for what it is:a crisis that we can mostly manage but not a time to create burdens to learning.
And in that process, you may have forgot to think about yourself.
Synchronous meetings that we freely choose can be fun and energizing. Synchronous meetings requiring video conferencing that we do not freely choose are unethical during a time when we cannot leave our homes to conduct them.
You don’t need any more reason to say no to them other than that you do not wish to share your personal space with people who are not part of your household. That’s it. And when your colleagues say no to such meetings, do not speculate on their commitment to the mission of education. Education can happen without you being in their homes.
But, if you need a reminder, people may not want to participate in video meetings because
- they lack the technology or must share it with others with more pressing concerns
- they choose to free up bandwith for other projects that are more important
- they are caring for others who are in the home, including partners, parents, and children
- they are abused and have no or limited access to the outside world right now
- they have fled an abuser or stalker and should not share information about their location with others in order to ensure their safety
- they are ill and have no obligation to share that information with you
- they live with people who are undocumented and should not be recorded
- they live with children who they do not want to appear online
- they are foster parents who are obligated to maintain privacy for children in their home
- they live with people with paranoia or other mental illnesses that require them to tightly control their living situation
- they live with people engaging in illicit activities
- they live in poverty or are homeless (Yes, this is even true of college teachers)
- they know that their homes will be judged as messy, which is a judgment that is often gendered
- they maintain a professional presentation in real life that cannot be maintained if others see them in the intimacy of their own home
- they lack space or privacy to have conversations about sensitive matters, including topics protected by FERPA
- the technology being used is not accessible to people with disabilities, which may prevent their full participation
Even if they face any of the above issues, they understand that participating in a system that leaves behind people in vulnerable situations is unethical, and they will not accept the privilege of advancing their own careers while others cannot.
If this list looks familiar to you, it might be because it includes many of the same barriers that prevent our students from engaging in online videos conferencing.
I understand that many of you are in jobs where you cannot work without remote meetings. As many of us have already figured out, though, it’s less common than we might imagine, if we are creative about other ways of accomplishing our goals. If you feel too vulnerable to say no to such meetings, ask a better-situated colleague to do so. And if you are such a colleague, say no without being asked.