Ramlo, Susan E. (2021, June). Universities and the COVID‑19 pandemic: Comparing views about how to address the financial impact. Innovative Higher Education, 46(3). (Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-021-09561-x) (Access: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10755-021-09561-x#citeas)

Abstract: Universities were forced to move instruction online and send residential students home due to the pandemic, resulting in financial shortfalls. Governing boards, administrators, and governments made decisions including eliminating faculty and staff, and programs yet these decisions were rarely inclusive of university stakeholders or innovative. This study’s purpose is to examine and compare viewpoints of stakeholders in relation to addressing the financial impact of the pandemic in hopes of capturing innovative and effective pathways for universities. Because the purpose involved describing and comparing these viewpoints, the researcher selected a unique mixed method, Q methodology [Q] for this study. In Q, participants sort statements related to the topic into a grid such that their Q-sort provides a snapshot of their subjectivity. Participants’ sorts are grouped empirically into factors, each representing unique viewpoints. Three distinct viewpoints emerged: 1) Focus on teaching mission and students, 2) University as a business, and 3) University as community. Views 1 and 3 were dominated by university faculty while View 2 was dominated by non-faculty including administrators and staff. Q’s determination of distinguishing statements within each view provides the ability to compare these views’ uniqueness. The three views and consensus among the views represent rejection of decisions to lay off faculty or close programs, among others, in order to balance university finances. The importance of tenured faculty in relationship to shared governance and academic freedom is especially stressed by two of the viewpoints. Implications for higher education policy, innovation, democratic problem-solving, and governance are discussed.

Susan E Ramlo <sramlo@gmail.com> is an independent researcher affiliated with the University of Akron, Akron, OH, USA.