08 Apr The Inequities Exposed by COVID-19 are Hardly Novel
- COVID-19 may present many new challenges for UIC, but it’s also exposing and exacerbating inequities that have been here all along.
- As we join together to protect the health and safety of our community, unequal access to the internet, lack of practical spaces for remote work, and the precarity of both students and workers remind us that a lot of folks were struggling even before the pandemic.
- For these reasons, we think that “back-to-normal” isn’t good enough.
- IMPACT BARGAINING: Our first session with administration will be tomorrow morning. We will report on the proceedings in a separate update.
It has been several weeks since the COVID-19 crisis caused UIC to shut down most in-person activities, and the second week since classes have resumed in mostly remote formats. While the situation is far from normal, some of the initial shock has begun to wear off, and the UIC community is doing its best to get back to at least some sense of normalcy. The big problem though, is that normal for a lot of faculty, students, and staff, wasn’t that great to begin with, and conditions under the pandemic have only exacerbated many peoples’ struggles.
Some of the clearest and most intractable examples come from the stories of people trying to adjust to their new work-from-home realities. In an ideal world, we might imagine students and faculty simply going back to their comfortable, internet equipped homes, secluding themselves in their office or bedroom, and logging in to class. But that’s not the reality for everyone, or even most people.
In reality, even some of the best case scenarios are fraught with challenges, like trying to take care of and even educate children while schools are closed. And it gets harder if, for example, your school district doesn’t have the resources to make remote-learning practical. And that’s not even touching on the possibility that your home may simply not be a suitable place to work at the best of times, which these are clearly not.
For the more precarious, COVID-19 may mean your position, your funding, or your scholarship may be about to expire with no promise of renewal or apparently even much empathy from your employer. Or maybe you have to go to work knowing your work is so invisible to those in charge that they haven’t even thought about how to protect you as you come in contact with potentially sick people.
COVID-19 and the move toward remote work may be new territory for all of us, but too many of the injustices we’re now seeing really clearly have been here for a long time. Going “back-to-normal” without looking these societal issues in the face would be a grave failing indeed, even as there is great pressure to ignore anything beyond the immediate health crisis before us. But we as educators do have choices and agency in how our institutions function, and we can choose to fight for a better new “normal” than the one that came before.
While we won’t be changing the world overnight, tomorrow UICUF will be going into our first official impact bargaining sessions with the administration. We intend to push for, among other things, a much broader commitment to faculty retention, especially for our most vulnerable members. We are also working on this and other issues with our campus union coalition. Look out for more updates in the coming days.
We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!