Blog Inclusion in Public Sector Workplaces

Pandemic Community: The shifting role of Academic Twitter

by Meril Antony:

In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, higher education leaders were faced with an unexpected role to navigate- ensure the wheels of knowledge continued to churn as academicians, students, administrators, and staff worked through navigating the digital environment while continuing to provide effective learning.

In between these changes, many decisions got delayed, including tenure decisions of professors, graduate school funding for doctoral students, research studies, and grants, among others. Of course, these issues existed even before the pandemic. However, the shift to an online environment for work and otherwise garnered more attention to these issues, with increased public scrutiny, especially from civil society. 

Academic Twitter has quickly become a platform with an open discussion between most scholars and students to engage and discuss some of these challenges. Topics include sharing insights on navigating the ‘work from home,’ openly sharing resources such as syllabi adjustments, curriculum changes, assignments, or projects that can be effective in a virtual setting. Recent examples also include a growing coherence being built among the academic community, openly discussing the varying degrees of inclusion that currently exist, the challenges, and sensible solutions that might pave the way for greater inclusion. From affordable virtual conferences for students to inviting guest speakers in a virtual setting, as opposed to a traditional fly-out, many of these strategies are practical and equitable. 

We see now not just inclusiveness of thoughts but strategies that cut through the challenges of geographic boundaries and give students and academics from varied backgrounds opportunities to take advantage of the information and knowledge sharing. This form of a shift to an online medium of engagement such as Twitter also led to increased participation and engagement of critical thought and debate around core public administration issues such as workplace promotion policies, child-care responsibilities, publishing deadlines, tackling mental health issues, among others. As academic institutions continue to provide remote instruction and navigate this new post-pandemic mode, I believe few lessons are here to stay.

  • Building a curriculum that includes scholars from diverse demographic backgrounds such as race, gender, ethnicity, etc.
  • Building on an equitable path for the students and early career scholars to help navigate the academic journey
  • An active acknowledgment and discussion of changes needed in workplace policies such as child-care and family-friendly policies
  • Building on the growing solidarity among academics to discuss and debate the tough questions

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About the author:

Meril Antony is a doctoral candidate at the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Newark. Her research primarily focuses on public management, social equity and leadership, and organizational level reforms, with a specific focus on urban education. Her dissertation focuses on the role of co-production theory in the U.S. school context. She is particularly interested in how schools can improve or sometimes hinder the co-production efforts of parents from different socioeconomic or racial backgrounds—and what individual efforts and organizational arrangements might pave the way. Over the last few years, Meril has been an active member of ASPA, and currently serves on committees in Section for Women in Public Administration (SWPA), and South Asian Section of Public Administration (SASPA). She is also an active member of Academic Women in Public Administration (AWPA).