Recently, the Center for the Study of Women in Society sent an urgent request to University of Oregon leadership asking for action to alleviate labor inequities for faculty, staff, and GEs that have arisen from the coronavirus pandemic.
As the faculty testimonials below demonstrate, COVID-19 has uncovered many aspects of our institutional practice that have historically rendered the labor of caregivers invisible and left them more vulnerable. By “caregiver,” we mean anyone who regularly looks after a child, a dependent, and/or a sick, elderly, or disabled person without pay. Caregivers can be of any gender and are usually members of a family or chosen care network. Caregivers should not be thought of as isolated individuals but as part of families, networks, and communities.
The costs of continued expectations for service and research added to teaching demands on junior faculty and others who have to keep on doing elder, child, and other forms care as well as home schooling will be cumulative and have differential impact going forward in their academic careers. The steps UO has taken to date will not alleviate the compounding disadvantages experienced by these caregivers.
Please take two minutes to sign this petition, requesting that the UO take the following steps:
1. Repurpose resources allotted for faculty research accounts (ASAs) and other funds to support caretakers. This includes revising the intended use of pools of money already available to faculty, such as start-up packages, or other funds for research and travel to pay for childcare.
2. Waive all non-essential service until there is a COVID-19 vaccine (such as curriculum reform, peer teaching reviews, attendance at non-essential faculty meetings, reviewing core curriculum).
3. Suspend “on track” standards for research productivity until a vaccine is available. This includes reevaluating metric indicators and timely progress standards for tenure and other merit reviews.
4. Develop a research accommodation opt-in policy like the tenure clock extension granted to all those with caretaking responsibilities affected by COVID-19.
5. Instruct department heads and deans to evaluate teaching loads and student enrollments. Those with heavier caretaking needs should be granted teaching relief and GE assistance. Analyzing student credit hour metrics allows deans and department heads to see how the workload of educating our students is distributed across faculty.
6. Collectively identify essential strategies of caring. This includes support systems within departments but also across the university for parents, children, and volunteer or paid childcare workers. It could include a sick-day bank for faculty to donate sick days to other faculty who need them to stay home and care for children and elders.
What else can you do?
- Takethis short survey on how your child, elder, or other caregiving responsibilities during the COVID-19 crisis have impacted your teaching, research, and/or work duties at UO.
- Read testimonials from faculty who are caregivers.
- Contribute a written testimonial about the impacts of caregiving on your work productivity during the pandemic. For a written testimonial, please upload your signed or anonymous .docx or .pdf file to this OneDrive folder, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For anonymous submissions, some indication of rank and school would be helpful to contextualize impact.
- See current research on labor inequities during the coronavirus pandemic, and add your own links.
Campaign for Caregivers: Links
- Letter to UO leadership: https://csws.uoregon.edu/labor-inequities-covid-19/
- Petition for UO Caregivers: http://chng.it/w856jVXF
- Take a short survey to share your caregiving experiences: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScfgObc-Fx3JS6lMF6rg8mck2fqoX0_EugGsQAlFRQkeX-6lQ/viewform
- Read faculty testimonials: https://csws.uoregon.edu/caregiver-testimonials/
- Read labor inequities research: https://csws.uoregon.edu/labor-inequities-research/
- Center for the Study of Women in Society: https://csws.uoregon.edu/
I have deep reservations about the actions that the UO has taken as responses to caregiving responsibilities. I am very concerned that the protections established thus far will leave many faculty like myself behind.
The cessation of my son’s normal school and extracurricular activities has exacerbated my longstanding struggle to find time and mental focus for research while taking on a disproportionate share of childcare and household duties.
The fall will be very difficult for me career-wise if the schools and aftercare do not reopen. I feel like I live in the 1980s, when my own mother furtively worked from home on her Apple II computer when she wasn’t busy doing everything else around the house.
One of the continuously persistent failures of the university is its lack of understanding about the additional community responsibilities that faculty of color, migrant faculty, Native faculty and working-class faculty carry. … Many of us care for extensive, non-local networks of family, framily, elders, tribes through monetary and non-monetary remittances, problem-solving, providing resources when others in our families cannot, and being the primary emotional and inter-generational support. We are generally not separate from our communities, but deeply ensconced in them. Even from a distance.
Caregiving in our house is not only limited to our kids. We talk to our moms every day a few times a day, and deal with family problems even though we live far away. For us, not being able to visit our families abroad has been and will be difficult to cope with. For example, one of the main sources of personal anxiety for me during the pandemic is having my mom in Puerto Rico, sick with Alzheimer and cancer, and not being able to visit her under this health crisis. Caregiving takes many shapes, but it has always been undervalued in our society.
Our current major source of uncertainty is our daycare, Vivian Olum. … [It] seems to be at least three weeks late compared to the other ones in even discussing about reopening and surveying families to assess what concessions they would be ready to make. That prevents us from making any decisions concerning hiring somebody medium/long term to care for our son, taking a few days off to clear our mind outside of Eugene, or even flying back to our home country where we could receive help for the whole summer should daycare stay closed until the fall.
On top of our work productivity, efficiency – hence, our competitiveness directly affected – I would like to mention the financial burden potentially weighing on our shoulders. In the plan described in the survey, the Vivian Olum Child center suggests to put “in place a temporary, monthly COVID fee, which is currently estimated at up to 15% of the 2020-21 tuition rates.” … We know that other daycares across town have not increased their monthly fee. I would find it very unfair to request UO parents to pay an extra fee (who knows for how long and how much) so their kids can go back to daycare. If we can’t, will we lose our spot?
Previously I had worked in the field of reproductive rights and justice wherein “childcare” was viewed through a feminist, rights-based, lens. My employees, coworkers, and colleagues and I had babies and we raised them all with very little boundaries between creche and home. We other-mothered, recruited our elders in trans-generational networks of care and responsibility, and never thought that something was amiss in incorporating children, aunties, uncles, and grandfolks into a circle of caregiving. I never found this in the academy.