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10 Actions to Advance Equity During COVID-19

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified inequities in the academic workplace. For example:

  • Women, racialized and Indigenous faculty are most vulnerable to course cancellations, job loss, hiring freezes and tenure and promotion delays as they are over-represented among precarious workers and in lower ranks.[1]
  • Academic staff with disabilities may struggle more with the rapid transition to remote teaching;
  • Gender inequality in caregiving has had a disproportionately negative impact on women’s teaching, research and service;[2]
  • Mental health problems such as anxiety have increased among academic staff[3] and have a disproportionate impact on those with pre-COVID-19 conditions; and,
  • Racialized academic staff, such as those of East Asian descent, may be experiencing heightened levels of racism[4] as a result of the pandemic and as backlash to the global uprising following the murder of George Floyd in the United States.

Emergency planning and procedures should not undermine the need for our workplaces to be diverse, equitable and inclusive. Ensuring these goals are not put to the way side during the crisis will result in better emergency responses. It will also make it easier to continue advancing equity as institutions transition out of the crisis.

To help address equity issues on campus exacerbated by COVID-19, CAUT offers the following suggestions to member associations.

Create or engage equity committees and communities

1. Create or engage equity committees and communities within your association to identify issues and advise on solutions — Whereas everyone is affected by the pandemic, not everyone is affected equally. Similarly, pandemic-related policy or practice changes have differential impacts. Read more...

Develop a COVID-19 equity lens

2. Develop a COVID-19 equity lens — Associations should develop an equity lens to help ask questions, challenge assumptions and identify potential impacts of policies, programs and initiatives, that takes into account the diversity of the membership. Read more...

Seek accommodations for care-giving responsibilities

3. Advocate for supports and assist members to secure reasonable accommodations for care-giving responsibilities associated with the pandemic — Human rights law in Canada prevents discrimination on the basis of family status, and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation. Read more...

Advocate for additional supports for members with disabilities

4. Advocate for additional funding and supports for accommodations for members with disabilities — Members with disabilities and neurodivergent members may need extra assistance with remote teaching. Read more...

De-stigmatize mental health issues and encourage members to seek support

5. Find ways to help de-stigmatize mental health and other disabilities to support academic staff to come forward with the need for accommodations — Identifying with a disability, particularly with mental health problems or illnesses, is challenging in an employment context. Read more...

Press for additional compensation for Contract Academic Staff

6. Press for additional compensation and job security for contract academic staff — Research shows that Indigenous and equity-seeking members of the academy are more likely to be working part time or part-year. Remote teaching requires additional hours of course preparation. Read more...

Stop the use of student opinion surveys

7. Negotiate or grieve to stop the use of student opinion surveys — Student opinion surveys have been widely criticized as a poor and biased measurement of teaching effectiveness. Read more...

Reconsider tenure and promotion timelines

8. Reconsider tenure and promotion timelines and criteria — Many academic staff associations have negotiated stop the clock agreements for tenure and promotion. This is critical, as COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on research, teaching and service. Read more...

Fight against lay-offs & hiring freezes

9. Fight against lay-offs and hiring freezes — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some universities and colleges have approached academic staff associations and other campus unions to discuss possible cost-cutting measures. Read more...

Press the employer to collect equity data

10. Press for the employer to collect and share demographic data on the campus community — The impact of COVID-19 on the working lives of academic staff will differ by many factors, including identities. Read more...

Resources

Letters of Understanding (LOU) / Joint Statements negotiated in response to COVID-19 on student evaluations, contract academic staff, tenure and promotion and more. Members’ area of CAUT website.

Memo 20:26 – Guidelines for Re-Opening Universities and Colleges. CAUT, May 13, 2020. Members’ area of CAUT website.

Memo 20:33 – Dealing with Claims of Financial Distress and Exigency: Key Principles for Academic Staff Associations, CAUT. June 23, 2020. Members’ area of CAUT website.

Endnotes

1 Underrepresented and Underpaid: Diversity and Equity of Post-Secondary Teachers in Canada. CAUT, 2018.

2 Viglione, Giuliana, Are women publishing less during the pandemic? Here’s what the data say, Nature, 2020.

3 CAUT Survey of COVID-19 impacts on academic staff. CAUT, 2020.

4 Leach, Jessica. From SARS to COVID-19: Putting the spotlight on anti-Asian racism, Ryerson Today, May 14, 2020.