As the quotes from 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.
Add your voice to the campaign by taking this short survey to share your caregiving experiences during COVID-19.
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.