The WGSC is participating in a systemwide task force to advance research on the gendered impacts of COVID-19 in higher education and develop ways to sustain and support caregivers across the UW System. The task force will determine key issues and concerns of faculty, staff, and student caregivers across the UW System, paying particular attention to the impacts on caregivers at the center of multiple marginalized identities as well as impacts of gender equity and COVID-19 on career progression. Our mission is to provide resources and collective policy recommendations to campus leadership across the UW System as part of collaborative process designed to streamline and expedite the support available to caregivers. Task force members include faculty and staff from across the UW System.
Please see the WGSC’s June 23, 2020 statement regarding caregiving recommendations to UW System Campus Leaders, as the UW System campuses prepare to return to campus in Fall 2020. This document provides the foundation of our concerns and considerations.
After the WGSC released their caregiving statement on June 23, 2020, faculty and staff across the UW System expressed a need for comprehensive follow-up with administrators on each campus, including the formation of a systemwide committee to work on short and long-term goals addressing the national caregiving crisis. In recent weeks, caregiving has been even more visible in the news as the reality of school and daycare closures and disruptions reveals the weaknesses in our national caregiving safety net, including the perils facing faculty and staff in higher education. After a series of planning meetings and input from faculty and staff from all campuses, the task force developed the following recommendations.
Immediate Policy and Guideline Recommendations on Caregiving:
Communicate clear and concise guidelines and work modifications on managing work disruptions relating to caregiving needs
- Send a clear directive to deans, chairs, and supervisors outlining a uniform policy on caregiving and work responsibilities. Caregiving and flexibility should be the explicitly named and detailed as part of this communication. Leaving this decision up to individual chairs and supervisors can leave faculty and instructors vulnerable to implicit bias, including sexism, racism, able-ism, and class-based prejudice.
- Offer remote work and online teaching options for all faculty, instructors, and staff with caregiving responsibilities, broadly defined.
- Provide explicit policies that detail how faculty and instructors who must teach face-to-face can pivot to asynchronous teaching modes and flexible work from home policies if a caregiving emergency arises.
- Create solutions beyond WFMLA for emergency leave and workload reductions. Because this option may not work for every situation, offer a combination of creative solutions such as a one-semester teaching release or course reduction, a 50% work option, and additional coverage and flexibility for lab work and other face-to-face instruction modes.
- Seek the input of caregivers on committees making COVID policies for campus.
- Provide clarity on policies for children on campus–both for employees and students.
- Clarify policies and scheduling requirements for the spring semester. This is a planning issue for employees with school age children.
- Develop mechanisms to ensure faculty and staff can request these options without fear of repercussion in terms of promotion, advancement, and job security.
A Realignment of Work Priorities and Evaluations
- Offer tenure stoppage and/or a reduction in research requirements. Make course evaluations, which are often susceptible to bias, optional, or, if used, developmental rather than evaluative in nature.
- Cancel all non-essential service work and conduct an assessment of who carries the majority of this work in each department. Support faculty in suspending external service work, such as editing journals, and reviewing papers and grants.
- Suspend all departmental reports and assessment reports.
- Conduct all meetings virtually.
- Offer an option for no new preps for spring semester or option to teach multiple sections of the same course.
- Create flexible teaching plans for face-to-face labs and adequate coverage to account for extended and emergency absences. For faculty and staff in STEM fields, lack of access and time in research labs decreases scholarly output disproportionately for women due to the disruption of working hours and increased care responsibilities.
- Provide graduate students with a one year extension on any time-to-degree requirements and a year-long extension on funding and tuition waivers.
- Include caregivers on committees making COVID policies for campus.
- Provide training for department chairs and supervisors underscoring the strains caregivers will face during the fall and spring semester, paying particular attention to how this crisis will be amplified for single parents, people of color, and others at the intersections of marginalized identities.
- Facilitate an education campaign for colleagues and students highlighting the immense strains on caregivers this fall (the task force can help with this work by doing a caregiving survey or providing a short statement based on literature and research we’ve collected). This will help students to understand and demonstrate empathy if there are delays in communication, grading, or if a child appears during a discussion section or lecture, and also prepare colleagues for the presence of children during meetings.
- Ensure that faculty and staff who contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are also compensated for their time and effort in these areas, and this work is included in considerations of overall workload.
Increase Caregiving Resources
- Distribute a caregiving survey to assess short and long-term caregiving needs.
- Utilize HR resources and School of Education to provide a database of local resources for caregivers and resources for families homeschooling, tutoring, and support for families with children who need additional accommodations.
- Offer virtual or in-person tutoring for children of faculty and employees through the School of Education.
- Offer employee well-being programming around mental health needs – thinking about balancing caregiving responsibility, stress, self-care, develop groups of caregivers for support, etc.
- Repurpose travel funds to subsidize emergency childcare or eldercare.
- Offer a sick-day bank which allows others to contribute excess sick days to caregivers.
- Create a fund (perhaps based on emeritus and alumni fundraising) to help employees pay for the additional dependent care they will need if schools do not reopen on a regular basis.
- Work with Career Services to post childcare employment opportunity ads by faculty, staff, and/or student caregivers.
- Use this moment to rethink and expand caring strategies across the University. Each campus could build upon strategies used by peer institutions to develop long-term plans for supporting caregivers in a sustainable fashion (for example: expanded regular daycare on campus, sick-day childcare on campus, subsidizing the expansion of childcare centers, as well as better access to care for adult family members with disabilities or medical needs).