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As universities in the United States begin to return to normal operating conditions, a number of “uneven and potentially long-term effects” of the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be addressed, including expanding categories that count towards tenure or promotion and reinstating salary increases following a successful tenure review, according to guidelines recently adopted by AAA’s Executive Board. The report emphasized scholars with high reproductive labor commitments could especially be hit the hardest.

The guidelines, designed to assist anthropologists, faculty candidates, external reviewers, and evaluation committees, were crafted by an ad hoc task force composed of representatives from the Members Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC): Carla Jones, Stevie Merino, Karen Rignall, M. Gabriela Torres, and Layla Brown-Vincent. The group reviewed a collection of research and datasets from across academic disciplines and interviewed a range of disciplinary representatives, from early career faculty to administrators situated in an array of institutional settings.

The task force defined reproductive labor in the broadest and classic sense: as the labor that is essential to sustaining life, including but not limited to caring for children, other kin, non-kin, colleagues, institutions, and communities. These historic conditions exposed the fact that universities rely on this invisible yet essential reproductive labor as much as other industries.

It was further noted that while a majority of faculty reported experiencing burnout and fatigue, particular scholars face the risk of amplified negative effects by virtue of increased reproductive labor demands coupled with increased formal labor demands, along with decreased access to research field sites and research productivity. These include but are not limited to female faculty, faculty at under-resourced institutions, racialized faculty, disabled faculty, and contingent faculty. The guidelines aim to mitigate what are therefore twinned, parallel crises: the illusion that the effects of the pandemic are fleeting and the intersection of these effects with persistent features of racial and gendered inequity that preceded the pandemic.

Universities and employers are uniquely positioned to prevent the uneven effects of the pandemic from becoming permanent. Recommendations provided by the guidelines include

  • expanding categories that count towards tenure or promotion by including open access, editor-reviewed, engaged, and public scholarship, and by eliminating the use of comparisons by external reviewers;
  • reinstating salary increases following a successful tenure review, adjusting sabbatical schedules as appropriate, and employing language about tenure clock stoppages that emphasizes the involuntary nature of delays;
  • inviting and taking seriously pandemic impact statements in evaluations; and
  • evaluating course content rather than instructors.

The report also includes links to possible models for evaluating faculty performance at other institutions, with sample letter templates to reviewers or other guidelines.

The full report also includes access to supporting data and resources for implementation. The guidelines and an accompanying PowerPoint presentation can also be found under “Resources” on the AAA COVID-19 Resources page.


Carla Jones

Carla Jones is associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research analyzes gendered anxieties of consumption, femininity, and religious visibility in urban Indonesia. She is co-seated with Rachel Hall-Clifford on the Members’ Programmatic, Advisory, and Advocacy Committee representing gender equity.

Cite as

Jones, Carla. 2021. “AAA Issues Guidelines to Mitigate Effects of Pandemic on Anthropologists.” Anthropology News website, September 7, 2021.