Covid-19 related support for faculty

March 18, 2021

For additional details regarding the below, please see this memo of March 26, 2021

Dear Tenure-track and Lecturer-track Faculty,

I am writing to outline a number of steps that the University is taking in response to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on faculty.  Even as we look forward to the increasing availability of vaccines and the return to a more typical academic year in September, President Paxson and I remain very much aware that the last year has been immensely challenging and that many colleagues’ scholarship and research continues to be affected.  We also appreciate how much energy faculty have dedicated to developing the online and hybrid modes of instruction that have enabled Brown to continue to provide an excellent educational experience to students.

In March 2020, all tenure-track assistant professors were offered an optional one-year contract extension in recognition of the disruptions to research due to travel restrictions and other factors, and to permit flexibility in the timing of their next reappointment review or tenure review. 

In discussion with senior academic officers, the Tenure, Promotion, and Appointments Committee, and the Faculty Executive Committee, we have developed a number of additional measures that will offer institutional support for eligible faculty.  I am especially grateful to the ad hoc Covid-19 and Faculty Advancement Committee, chaired by Professor Johanna Hanink, for its work in helping to develop these recommendations.

Tenure-Track Assistant Professors

Tenure track assistant professors may apply for one of the following options:

1.     Reduced Teaching.  Faculty may apply for a one-course reduction in teaching responsibilities during academic year 2021-22 or in a subsequent year, to be used in a semester prior to the tenure review; decisions about the specific course and the timing should be arranged in consultation with the department chair(s).  The University will make an exception to the normal residency requirements to allow faculty to clear one semester entirely of teaching and, if travel is approved, to conduct research outside of the Providence area.  While this program is designed to maximize flexibility, faculty are still expected to fulfill normal service and advising responsibilities (both of which may be conducted remotely) during a semester in which they are not teaching.

Note that we expect to replace many of the courses, thereby providing teaching opportunities for current adjunct/visiting faculty and recent Ph.D. recipients.

2.     Research Support.  Faculty may apply for awards of up to $15,000 in research funding. The funds may be used for research-related purposes, including undergraduate and graduate student research assistants, graduate student support, postdoc support, summer salary, University-approved travel, equipment, and other allowable research expenses. The funds will be available during the faculty member’s time as an assistant professor at Brown.

3.      Additional contract extension for extraordinary circumstances.  Please note that the University policy on one-year extensions of contract for extraordinary circumstances continues to be in effect for tenure-track assistant professors.  The policy makes it possible to request an extension of the probationary period if there have been “reasons beyond the faculty member’s control that he or she has been deprived of reasonable opportunity to demonstrate his or her ability and potential as a teacher-scholar.”  Any such extension would be in addition to the one-year extension of contract already offered to tenure-track faculty.

Application process:  Assistant professors should notify the chair(s) of their department(s) whether they intend to request one of these options.  Notification should be made in writing by April 15.  In all cases, the faculty member will be asked to explain in a brief statement (1-2 pages) the impact of the pandemic on their research agenda and how it has delayed progress towards tenure.  The narrative should describe the nature and magnitude of the disruption.

  • For a course reduction, please indicate the specific course and the semester in which the course reduction will be taken.
  • For research funding, please provide an overview of the intended use of the funds and a brief budget outlining anticipated expenses.
  • For extensions of contract, candidates whose next review (whether for reappointment or tenure) is due to take place during academic year 2021-22 should submit the required documentation by April 15 so that TPAC is able to consider the request this spring.  In other cases, the candidate should indicate by that date whether a request will be forthcoming, with the formal request to be submitted by September 1. 

Assistant professors are encouraged to discuss these options with their department chair and/or dean.  Applications for course release and research funds will be reviewed by the department chair and the relevant dean.  Applications for an extension of contract will be reviewed by the chair, the dean, and the Tenure, Promotion, and Appointments Committee.  In the event that an application for the additional one-year contract extension is not approved, the faculty member will be able to apply for either a course reduction or research funding.

The Covid-19 and Faculty Advancement Committee has developed guidance for those who are considering a request for contract extension.  Please see the end of this memo for details.

Faculty Teaching in the Summer Semester

We appreciate that many faculty at all ranks have also experienced challenges and disruptions related to the impact of the pandemic, and that for those who are teaching in the summer semester the demands on their time over the course of this academic year are particularly intense.  In recognition of this, tenured associate professors and lecturer-track faculty who teach during the summer semester will receive an extra semester of credit toward the next sabbatical or scholarly leave.

Additional Support for Family Care

The challenges for employees with family caregiving responsibilities have in many cases been exacerbated.  We have therefore revised and expanded the terms of the Dependent Care Travel Fund to provide enhanced support for faculty research in academic years 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Funds will continue to be available to support family care-related expenses for faculty attending academic conferences and/or conducting research away from campus (when travel has been approved).  In addition, requests may now be submitted for reimbursement of expenses incurred at home that enable a faculty member to fulfill professional responsibilities outside of the hours when the usual care arrangements are in place.  The maximum amount that may be reimbursed has been raised from $750 to $1500 for each of the next two academic years. 

Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, and Professors in campus-based academic departments may apply for support from this fund.  Please note that the University has also increased support for back-up childcare and adult/elder care, and is currently waiving co-pays as well as providing additional forms of support.  Details are available through Human Resources.

In closing, thank you again for all that you have done, and are doing, to make this academic year a successful one.


RIchard M. Locke


Guidance for those considering an extension of contract or other accommodation:

The Covid-19 and Faculty Advancement Committee has developed guidance as to the types of setbacks to research that ought to be recognized, and outlined a list of questions on which faculty members might reflect as they prepare their requests:

  • Was access to research resources (e.g., libraries, archives, sites, office space or labs) reduced or eliminated for more than twelve months?
  • Was there irreplaceable or significant loss of research animals, subjects, supplies, field seasons or travel that set research back more than twelve months?
  • Was the research program significantly altered, reduced or abbreviated in order to refocus on addressing issues related to Covid-19 and the Coronavirus Pandemic?
  • Were research outcomes (publications, exhibitions, conference presentations, etc.) reduced, delayed or otherwise affected by the pandemic?
  • Was there a significant lack of networking, feedback and professional contact due to the cancellation of talks, seminars, conferences, travel, etc.?
  • Was the availability of undergraduate and graduate student research assistants or postdoctoral fellows reduced as a result of the pandemic (e.g., due to quarantines or visa issues)?
  • Did the faculty member’s scope of service and/or teaching duties radically change or increase as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic?
  • Did the faculty member have personal medical issues created or compounded by the Coronavirus Pandemic? (Including, e.g., inability to undergo “elective” surgery, lack of access to hospitals/medical care, etc.)
  • Was the faculty member burdened by challenges with child- or elder-care beyond what had been the case before the pandemic, such as homeschooling and/or other forms of caregiving (including, e.g., the provision of remote care to elders)?