The Ongoing Pandemic and Childcare

Dear all,

We’ve heard from quite a few of you with questions and concerns about how reopening policies are being applied in your units, especially when it comes to teaching. We’re hoping the following information helps as you navigate through the rest of the term, though, as always, we are more than happy to hear from you individually. We can help you assess your situation and advocate accordingly with our colleagues in HR and OtP. I know there’s a much more pressing and specific variation on these concerns, and that’s the childcare situation on campus literally imploding this week, as I have heard from so many of you. I’ll take that up last.

Tracing and Corona Corps

Faculty have very little to do here unless they receive information from a student, and if they do, they gotta pass it on to the Corps and let ‘em take it from there. That’s it. If there’s something you’re supposed to do, you’ll be notified.

To Zoom or Not

Quarantine triggers are straightforward. If you or your dependents test positive for Covid or are told to quarantine, do not teach your class in person. The business about finding a substitute or teaching remotely got messy quick. So let’s be straight up. We know that there aren’t any units or departments out there with an abundance of faculty just sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called up and subbed in. While it certainly would be ideal to find a substitute for your course, over-stretched departments, potential lack of area expertise, and differing policies about remunerating teachers for substitution duties make it nearly impossible for substitution to be a viable option. So let’s not waste time behind options that aren’t really options; zoom away dear colleagues when those quarantine triggers hit and substitution ain’t gonna happen. Or if you are not able to provide a remote synchronous class meeting, it is okay to provide your students with a day of asynchronous material or assignments.

We know folks are experiencing an acute shortage of reliable childcare. If you have to miss a class because childcare isn’t available, you should do what you normally do when you gotta miss class. If, however, your memory goes back pre-pandemic, we know when emergencies came up, we would have canceled class and given students an hour or two to catch their breaths or would have asked them to do some work on their own. With occasional childcare closures impacting instructors, here as well teach remotely if you can, or provide your class with asynchronous alternatives. In cases where child care closures are longer term, and more than one class here or there is impacted, then you’ve got to run it up to your Head or Director and Dean. I know a number of faculty are getting individual support from leadership to think through those kinds of situations.

The tricky piece we’re getting into here, though, is how many zooms make a class no longer an in-person experience for our students? How many interruptions to the schedule or syllabi negatively impact our students? But we’ve also got to ask: How will our students be impacted by over- and unnecessarily-stressed faculty?


And that’s the biggest stress we’re hearing about right now. We know there are national issues with childcare both at the material and ideological level. We know we’re in a particularly acute shortage right now. The Vivian Olum Center. Eugene. Springfield and surrounding areas. All who wait months, years on lists. Junior and Career faculty who can’t afford childcare. Faculty of Color even more severely limited in choice. But that’s never not been the case generally speaking in the area. The pandemic has laid bare this deeply structural issue.

And until we have those creative solutions in place that suddenly produce well-trained staff in world-class facilities to take care of our young ones, we need UO leaders at all levels to be flexible and to do so from a place of compassion and not from a place of fear. We need our on-the-ground faculty leaders, our Heads and Directors, to value the people they’re tasked with leading over their fears of whether or not they’re doing right by their bosses. We need our leaders in the Colleges and in central to trust that we faculty teachers are damn good at what we do and our students have the capacity to recognize that we, too, have struggles, and yet, together, we still produce something amazing every term, especially over the pandemic. And I trust that when those creative solutions come up, the checkbooks will be open.

Please know that addressing childcare in ways that impact you now and in the future is a priority for United Academics. As always, more to come.