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The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics

ISSN: 2472-7318

Combating White Supremacy in a Pandemic: Antiracist, Anticapitalist, and Socially Just Policy Recommendations in Response to COVID-19

 

Genevieve García de Müeller, Syracuse University

Ana Cortes, Syracuse University

Laura Gonzales, University of Florida 

Alex Hanson, Syracuse University 

Cody Jackson, Texas Christian University 

Seth Kahn, West Chester University 

B E. Lopez, Syracuse University

Benesemon Simmons, Syracuse University


 

Executive Summary

The first known outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 occurred in December 2019.  By early 2020, COVID-19 had spread across the globe and was officially declared a pandemic on 11 March, 2020. Research teams scrambled to collect data and project possible outcomes. On 16 March, 2020, the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team released their paper  “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand,” which predicted that without extreme social distancing measures the novel virus COVID-19 will decimate populations globally. On 26 March 2020, the IHME COVID-19 health service utilization forecasting team published their article “Forecasting COVID-19 impact on hospital bed-days, ICU-days, ventilator days and deaths by US state in the next 4 months.” Both Imperial College and IHME have reported that without conservative and sustained social distancing measures, hospitals will be overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. In many U.S. states, this reality has already come to fruition. IHME’s model suggests, “Even with social distancing measures enacted and sustained, the peak demand for hospital services due to the COVID-19 pandemic is likely going to exceed capacity substantially. Alongside the implementation and enforcement of social distancing measures, there is an urgent need to develop and implement plans to reduce non-COVID-19 demand for and temporarily increase capacity of health facilities” (1). Since these predictions were made in March, what has become clear is that this pandemic has affected marginalized populations at disparate and alarming rates, that responses to the pandemic have mostly ignored these predictions and are embedded in white supremacist and captalist structures, and that higher education thus far has failed students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports on aggregate ensemble data weekly. The data collected from twenty four independent research teams has closely resembled the early models of both Imperial College and IHME. In short, the U.S. is in dire circumstances a full three months after initial predictions. Thus far, this research “suggests that there will likely be between 130,000 and 150,000 total reported COVID-19 deaths by July 18th.” 

 

Figure 1: A CDC chart indicating cumulative reported deaths.
 

None of the research teams reporting to the CDC has taken into account the ethical and social impact these measures will have in terms of race, gender, disability, sexuality, citizenship status, economic status, and other marginalizing factors. As higher education institutions are responding to this data, they need to consider these issues but thus far have failed to do so. 

This report is a collaborative, collective, and multilingual effort written by a cross-institutional group of graduate students and faculty. Genevieve García de Müeller analyzed and summarized the COVID models and contextualizes them with data on infection/death rates and race. Benesemon Simmons writes about race, labor, and housing rights. Cody Jackson interrogates university policy that is anti-ableist and white supremacist. B E. Lopez provides ways to support LGTBQ, non-binary, and gender nonconforming persons. Seth Kahn considers this pandemic in relation to labor and class. Alex Hanson discusses best policies for caretakers and mothers. Ana Cortes writes about ways to help international students. Finally, Laura Gonzales illustrates how language access is vital during this time. We all consider the pandemic in an environment of white supremacy and economic disparity, suggest policies for institutions and communities, suggest areas of research for scholars and organizers who deal with ethics, marginalized populations, and issues of equity and access, and create a framework of discussion for folks to take up this work in their communities. 

 

Summary of Models

In this section, we will summarize both early prediction models: Imperial College and IHME. We are using these models because these initial predictions influenced how states and higher education responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will first outline each team’s methods, model, and recommendations. Then show convergences in order to: 

  • Illustrate the severity of the situation.
  • Present worst case scenario data and most affected populations.
  • Contextualize policy recommendations.
  • Offer resources for policy makers. 

 

Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team

Imperial College lays out two possible policy strategies for reducing harm to public health: mitigation and suppression. The goal of mitigation is to slow, but not stop, the spread so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system. Mitigation includes wide and broad testing, quarantining people who have tested positive, and anyone with whom they came into contact. 

The IC Response Team suggests that mitigation is the most effective strategy. The following table includes definitions of several mitigating and social isolation strategies. 

Figure 2: A table of social distancing strategies.

 

The IC recommends full scale universal testing and quarantining the entire population. They predict that these measures need to be at the very least in place for five months but ideally followed until a vaccine is in wide production. Most countries affected by COVID-19 applied some of these restrictions to varying effectiveness. Initially both the United Kingdom (U.K) and Sweden, refused to do any level of lockdown opting instead to prefer a herd immunity plan believing that if enough of the population contracted COVID-19 a natural immunity would emerge. The U.K. quickly turned course but Sweden refused and continued with their plan “and now has suffered roughly twice as many infections and five times as many deaths as the other three nations combined.” 

 

IHME 

The IHME predicted a large number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 with the peak being ~ 2,500 a day. Based on data about ICU beds and available ventilators, this pandemic will strain the hospital system in the US creating an overwhelming surge of need and resulting in deaths from COVID-19 as well as collateral deaths. Peak volumes were estimated to be on or around April 15th contingent on the entire population following social distancing measures. For states that complied, this was roughly true. For the states that were more lax they still have not seen a peak in infections or deaths. The U.S. in total has yet to see these peaks as well. The CDC reported on June 24th that “state-level ensemble forecasts suggest that the number of new deaths over the next four weeks in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah will likely exceed the number reported over the last four weeks. For other states, the number of new deaths is expected to be similar to the number seen in the previous four weeks or to decrease slightly.”

 

Convergences 

Both the IHME and IC, suggest that without comprehensive social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, this pandemic will result in massive wide scale deaths, an overloaded healthcare system, and a lack of resources. In the best case scenario, these estimates for social distancing measures range from 3-5 months but in the worst case scenario, the most likely to emerge as of now, the US may be quarantined in waves for up to 18 months-2 years. 

Neither report includes data on the economic or ethical impact of their recommendations; however, both reports should be consulted by universities when creating policy in response to COVID-19 because, as of now, both models have been accurate. 

 

Affected Populations 

Folks who have died from COVID-19 in the US are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and Latinx. The COVID-19 Racial Data Tracker is a collaboration between the COVID-19 Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. Their data reports on infections, death, and race. Thus far, “Black people are dying at a rate more than 1.5 times higher than their population share.” You can track your state data here. For example in New Mexico, indigenous folks make up 9% of the state population but account for 55% of the infections and 59% of the deaths. 

Systems of oppression maintain principles of dominance and uphold white supremacist structures; and though the extraction and exploitation of these systems may not be perceptible, it is always present given the terror racial capitalism uses to maintain it. COVID-19 has become a grave threat to the health of many, but this pandemic has also exacerbated harm experienced by those most affected by racism, further putting their lives at risk. And while underlying health conditions are believed to predict infection, other social factors must be considered including income and employment, place-specific geographies, and access to health services. Still, such circumstances and determinants only emphasize the severity of racial disparity, thus it is necessary to place race at the center of conversations surrounding COVID-19. Racism protects those with privilege and power and who exist at the top of economic and class hierarchy; therefore, the pandemic has continued to devastate communities of color, and policy formation and implementation help make racism’s enduring inequity apparent. For example, higher education’s response to COVID-19 magnifies the myopia of institutional power, and the intentional (in)actions of universities across the nation helps underline the urgency of social justice issues which is especially relevant for BIPOC and other marginalized communities.

  

Policies to Mitigate Harm 

In response to social distancing policies, universities shut down and most classes were online in the spring and summer of 2020. Universities are now beginning the process of furloughing faculty and staff, cutting budgets, rescinding job and grad school offers, freezing salaries and hires, taking away funding, and in total gutting all support systems for the most marginalized sections of their populations. This has resulted in an inequitable environment becoming even more toxic and contentious. Universities have been slowly rolling out their plans for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Considering the good of public health, the following are socially just policy recommendations and research areas. These recommendations are made under the assumption that higher education institutions will believe science and data and maintain social distancing measures until a vaccine. For the purpose of this report, we have created categories for areas of study but urge researchers to do work that complicates and intersects these categories. The categories include Race and Economics, Disability and Ableism, LGBTQIA+, Labor, Caretaking and Motherhood, Immigrant and International Populations, and Language Access.

 

Race and Economics

At the center of all social issues is housing justice because of its capacity to directly impact political, economic, and cultural systems and institutions; therefore, it is essential for everyone to have access to safe and secure living conditions. However, housing does not ensure protection and opportunity for all. In fact, it is indeed a reflection of the hierarchical framework and systemic oppressions that consume our local and global communities, and disproportionately affect marginalized populations. Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the severity of housing inequality and only magnified the importance of housing justice and the violence experienced by those affected most. Unfortunately, policy in response to COVID-19 within higher education has compounded housing insecurity and created precarious conditions for faculty, staff, students, and surrounding residential communities.  

Universities across the nation abruptly cancelled classes mid-semester and switched to on-line learning. While students living on campus have been required to vacate residence halls, in some cases universities have charged rent, particularly to international and out of state students, who had no alternative housing. Moreover, students living off campus were expected to fulfil rent obligations despite the financial instability the pandemic created. And, for university faculty and staff, the emphasis on “essential workers'' caused job and housing insecurity or loss for many. As a result, universities have refunded surplus room and board expenses, landlords have allowed rent deferral, and governors have approved eviction moratoriums. But, neither solutions address the root of housing insecurity or inequality. Power circulates within the social relationships that make up a campus or a residential community, including how policies are decided, constructed, and enforced (Wagner, Boettcher, Howard, & Cawthin, 2019). If institutions are truly concerned about the security and welfare of their students, staff and surrounding communities, they should analyze “existing structural and historic relations of domination” (Gillborn, 2005, pg. 487) and seek firm legislation that considers how inequitable power structures affect residential environments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also helped underline the systemic impact of racial disparities that exist in housing, even in exclusionary discriminatory ways that preserve status and maintain racial hierarchy. Examining housing practices helps outline hierarchical structures and highlight how oppressed communities are impacted in violent ways and how they unjustly experience unethical and inequitable practices like redlining, displacement, and homelessness (Roscigno, Karafin, & Tester, 2009). For example, “African Americans have remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population, accounting for 40 percent of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019 and 52 percent of people experiencing homelessness as members of families with children, despite being 13 percent of the U.S. population” (Henry, Watt, Mahathey, Ouellette & Sitler, 2020). Still, housing merely represents one fragment of the injustices faced by marginalized populations, and these injustices effectively extend out into other institutions like education, health care, employment, and policy. “Housing discrimination continues to be a social problem in the United States for racial minorities” (Roscigno, Karafin, & Tester, 2009, pg. 67) so, when those directly affected by housing injustice are acknowledged in relation to racism and social issues, its structures and interconnecting designs can then be repaired.

Even with the prevailing circumstances of the pandemic, it is essential that housing justice continue to be a part of conversations that insist on change specifically regarding policy and inequity across contexts and conditions. Therefore, recommended research questions regarding social justice in housing include:

  • How does low income housing across communities reflect racial hierarchies in the U.S. and abroad?
  • How does housing insecurity reflect and inform the scale and scope of broader social issues, and the policies and practices that sustain them?
  • How does housing inequity manifest for on and off campus students, and what established conditions maintained by universities serve to prioritize or marginalize different populations of students?
  • How has policy decisions in higher education impacted housing security and safety for students living on and off campus, and for residents in surrounding university communities?
  • How can housing justice help interrogate and understand systemic oppression, and serve as a lens for institutional change?

Ultimately, the decisions of higher education institutions reflect a commitment to racial capitalism and systemic oppression; so, it is important that socially just COVID-19 policies center marginalized people rather than populations who maintain institutional privilege and power. In terms of housing justice and other social issues, those who are disproportionately affected must be adequately recognized and supported.

 

Disability and Ableism

Earlier this year, the State of Alabama produced guidelines (now rescinded) for hospitals and emergency rooms to “withhold ventilators from patients with ‘severe or profound mental retardation,’ ‘moderate to severe dementia,’ or ‘severe traumatic brain injury’” (Mello et al). Alabama is by no means alone; medical practitioners and researchers continue to publish articles on triage and emergency resource allocation (see Argenziano et al; Emanuel et al; Truog et al). While Alabama’s guidelines have since been withdrawn, the eugenic impulses that fueled their production in the first place remain. Such impulses are not newfound but derived from state-sanctioned chattel slavery, plantation “logics,” de jure and de facto discrimination, and ongoing Jim Crow systems of anti-Black violence (see Carter; Flanders; Bailey and Peoples). White supremacist and ableist violence operate in tandem, though not identically, to reassert what Sylvia Wynter might refer to as the limits of the human (see McKittrick).

In the absence of a rational state, amidst a neo-fascist authoritarian regime, what are the limits of policy? In other words, how effective can a policy recommendation for universities and colleges be without a cohesive state? For these reasons, along with so many others, I am struggling to articulate recommendations for anti-ableist practices at universities and colleges in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, May 30, 2020,  Cody Jackson sent an email to TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini, Jr., Theresa Gaul, Chair of the English Department, and Dean Sonja Watson of the College of Liberal Arts. The email, among other things, asked the Chancellor if the administration’s plans for the Fall 2020 semester intentionally sought to include “disabled-identifying people” as “part of these decision-making procedures.”

In response to Jackson’s email, Chancellor Boschini stated, in part, “In general I do not believe that every single group – whichever group of folks that might be in any particular situation – needs to be represented on every task force/group/committee in order for their thoughts to be heard or considered…” While readers can click here to read Chancellor Boschini’s full email,  it’s important to point out that Texas Christian University has been at the forefront of skirting federal civil rights legislation by lobbying the U.S. Senate for exemptions to, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

At this moment – right now – universities are specific sites wherein the entanglement of right-wing white supremacy, necropolitical violence, and abled-normativity converge. It is at this nexus that any conversation about or adjacent to COVID-19 and higher education policy must focus. Administrators, academics, and teachers must work to scrutinize the ongoing white abled supremacy that continues to govern the range and scope of humanness in the contemporary university landscape – one that isn’t so “contemporary.” In other words, white supremacy and abled-normativity is structuring to the very foundation of higher education (see Annamma). Therefore, the effects of COVID-19 are structured by and through these white supremacist and ableist practices, policies, and procedures. To echo Carmen Kynard (2020), this moment may well be one that highlights a “new white precarity,” but such a newfound “consciousness” is one grounded upon ongoing and specific forms of anti-Black sexist and ableist violence.

The following recommendations are not merely for higher education administrators and policy practitioners; they are for faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff, and instructors alike.

 

Recommendations

  • Completely defund and abolish the university police department on your campus, if your university or college has a police department. These funds should be directly transferred to increase pay, benefits, and healthcare access for Black faculty, Black graduate students, Black undergraduate students, and Black staff (see Gallon; Rodriguez; Haynes and Bazner; Mack and Mack);
  • If your university or college does not have a police department, investigate whether they allocate a portion of their budget to local police. If so, demand that these budgetary allocations be re-routed to Black faculty, Black graduate students, Black undergraduate students, and Black staff;
  • Departments or academic units should directly assert their power in ensuring emergency online education for the Fall 2020 academic semester. If university or college administration push back, or require face-to-face interaction, white-privileged tenured faculty and department heads must lead the resistance (see Helms);
  • Universities and colleges should employ and equitably compensate disabled disability consultants who could offer ample resources and strategies that are specific to a particular institution’s local contexts. Universities forming ad-hoc committees related to COVID-19 and higher education should monetarily compensate all committee members, especially graduate students, undergraduate students, and contingent/non-tenure-track faculty;
  • Universities and colleges should work to provide comprehensive health insurance to all campus workers, regardless of full-time or part-time status;
  • As universities and colleges recognize the inevitability of emergency online education for the Fall 2020 semester, it is important to also recognize that requirements for synchronous participation, on the part of either faculty or students, is a fundamentally inaccessible and ableist requirement. It is thus recommended that administrators develop, in conjunction with accessibility practitioners, accessible modes of asynchronous participation in courses, departmental meetings, and other aspects of university daily operation (see Mapping Access).

Readers are urged to consistently look and feel for ways to interrogate these modes of violence as ongoing examples of white supremacist, ableist, and anti-Black violence. We must continue to resist. This is written alongside Jane Doe No. 1, Jane Doe No. 2, Jane Doe No. 3, Jane Doe No. 4, Jane Doe No. 5, and all Black women, Black disabled women, and Black trans women who continue to face both quotidian and extraordinary forms of white supremacist anti-Black, anti-queer and ableist violence at the hands of abusive university administrators and faculty. While most readers may well understand that the white supremacist and ableist violence at universities is not isolated from the violence that permeates systems outside and adjacent to the university, this work calls on all of us – particularly white-privileged folks – to consistently remember the ways that white supremacy and ableism work together (and separately) to mutually reinforce violence against Black and disabled (especially Black disabled) lives. The Movement for Black Lives and anti-ableist responses to COVID-19 cannot be separated. The work is right in front of us and the violence of these systems cannot be overestimated. To echo Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, now is the time and space for “waking up and acting as if the revolution has happened” (149). The revolution is here – and it is not new. The work is right in front of us.

 

LGBTQIA+ 

Universities have not fully accounted for their LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most universities closed their campuses, “refund[ed] students' room and board charges on a pro-rated basis” (Smalley, 2020, par 6), and moved to online instruction in mid-March--as the country declared a national emergency--they have not responded to specific challenges that LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming communities, especially their Black, Indigenous and people of color members, encounter among their many other concerns. For instance, at most campuses, “transgender and nonbinary students now have to log into online courses and discussion forums that display legal names they no longer use” and access to medical clinics is greatly impacted by COVID-19 practices (Brown, 2020). Because universities asked students to move out of campus housing, many LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming students had to resort to moving back in with unsupportive families and/or are living in unsustainable housing situations. “A spokeswoman for the Trevor Project, which focuses on LGBTQ youth and mental health, said the number of young people reaching out to the group’s crisis-services programs has more than doubled since the pandemic began” (Brown, 2020). Among their many concerns, folks in these communities struggle with access to “safe” homes, financial concerns, and access to proper medical and health care on a daily basis; their lack of access issues are increased during COVID-19. Some campus LGBTQIA+ centers have held virtual spaces for these communities for support, however, it is imperative that universities create more means of material support to secure the wellbeing of these communities during this public health crisis as well as for long term purposes.

As many universities attempt to transition from online instruction to face to face instruction, it is vital that they ensure inclusivity and access by providing policies and commitments to LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming communities. Below are some suggestions for policies:  

  • Renaming and gender-affirming policy.  In the midst of online instruction, it is essential that all universities implement a policy that allows students, faculty, and staff to use a name other than their legal name for all their campus records. Additionally, students, faculty, and staff should be allowed to change their gender markers on their university IDs (if applicable) along with adding their pronouns on class rosters.  Helpful places of entry can be found at Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Columbia University’s Preferred Name Policy, Indiana University’s Preferred Name Policy, and Manchester University’s Preferred Name Policy.
  • Trans and queer housing policy.  As research indicates, “[m]any students depend on college dorms, dining halls and work-study programs for their housing, food and income” (Smalley, 2020) and “14% of LGBTQ people of color have asked for delays in rent payment, compared to 8% of white LGBTQ people and 7% of the general population” (Bibi, 2020). LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming communities can benefit from safe housing options such as Ithaca College’s “Housing Accommodations” where a “Transgender and Non-Binary Housing Requests” option is available for students. Additionally, universities should provide emergency rent relief and/or campus housing rent pause for LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming students, faculty, and staff. Another place to start is the Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse.
  • Medical care for LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming policy. Universities must ensure that students have access to sexuality and gender expression affirming medical and healthcare. In addition to securing medical and healthcare staff who are queer and gender-affirming, universities can implement required allyship training for all staff and faculty. 

While there have been some efforts to ensure the wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming communities during  COVID-19, universities need to invest, both financially and instrumentally into their students who are members of these communities. Students who identify as QTBIPOC already face multiple challenges even before taking the pandemic into account and their lives are at risk even more now. Universities need to ensure equity and access by acknowledging these communities and creating policies that support their livelihood.

   

Labor 

The impact of COVID-19 on contingent faculty is hard to assess systematically. It’s fair to say that the pandemic has exponentially increased the precarity of contingent positions--and the people who hold them. In March 2020, Tenure for the Common Good (the Executive Board of which Seth serves on) issued a Statement on Equity and Teaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic, documenting a litany of problematic working conditions contingent faculty were and are facing with the sudden move online: lack of access to equipment needed to teach virtually; tremendous amounts of uncompensated work revising courses (which was true for almost all faculty, but a bigger problem for people already not getting paid beans for their labor); “freeway flyers” being made to navigate multiple LMS platforms and/or finding conflicts with multiple Zoom accounts (a whole host of those kinds of technical problems); there were concerns, again consistent with long experience, that contingent faculty would develop online materials that would then get taken from them. Tenure for the Common Good’s statement issued a series of calls to tenured faculty and administrators to protect contingent colleagues--professionally, personally, and financially; the current situation has done nothing to lessen the urgency of those needs.

The Chronicle of Higher Education began tracking furloughs, layoffs, and non-renewals in early May; the page was last updated on May 26. At last count, 47 institutions had furloughed or laid off at least some faculty. As the page indicates, however: 

The Chronicle has identified 190 institutions associated with a layoff, a furlough, or a contract nonrenewal resulting from COVID-19. At least 48,086 employees in academe are known to have been affected by those actions. However, because a specific or approximate count of leaves of absence, terminations, workplace reductions, or contract nonrenewals is not known for every action, the sum represents a significant undercount. (Bauman 2020). 

Nobody will be surprised if at least some of those contingent faculty whose jobs disappeared are rehired if enrollments are more stable than expected; try to pay attention to faculty who were laid off or non-renewed and are rehired into worse positions: long-term lecturers, for example, rehired in part-time lines with no benefits but teaching the same loads and courses. Disaster capitalism (Klein 2007) is real. Conversely, contingent faculty in other places (frequently posted in social media) are reporting offers of increased workload, but with no guarantee that it will extend beyond one semester, and rarely offering access to medical insurance that those faculty are generally denied because they don’t teach enough. 

Contingent faculty are losing work in many places, being asked to do more work without much benefit in other places, and all of this is happening before institutions have much idea of how fall enrollments will look. The unstable workloads and untenable working conditions are endemic to contingent positions. COVID-19 hasn’t so much created no problems as exacerbated every one of the old ones. As for policy recommendations, the Tenure for Common Good Statement is pretty thorough. The most common issue to arise since the statement was issued in March has to do with decisions about teaching modalities in Fall 2020 (and beyond). Put simply, contingent faculty--as well as graduate instructors--should have the same latitude to make those decisions as tenure-track faculty do, a position reinforced in the CWPA/CCCC Joint Statement in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Also, at institutions where online teaching in Fall 2020 is handled as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s crucial to ensure contingent faculty that requesting online teaching as an accommodation will not cost them work. At institutions where contingent contracts aren’t issued until the last minute, faculty with every legal right to accommodations are nervous about asking for them because they aren’t under contract, and once they are, processing and deciding on the claims takes time. Do not ask them to wait; if somebody has an ADA claim, they need to be able to make it.

    

Caretaking and Motherhood

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many caregivers have faced unexpected challenges, especially as schools and daycares closed. For single parents, and single mothers in particular, these challenges were exacerbated as they found themselves increasingly isolated with limited support networks. While all caregivers have been impacted by this pandemic, single parents have been hit especially hard as “Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent” (Kramer, 2019 paras. 1-2), and of those children, the majority live with a single mother (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019, Table FG6). As universities begin to implement plans in response to the pandemic, it’s necessary that they take into consideration how to best support those with a range of caregiving identities (parents, as well as those who care for family members with disabilities, and those responsible for eldercare). The list below consists of some practical policies universities could implement to begin supporting this population.

  • Extend tenure and review clock for caregivers. Research has shown that women who have been taking on the bulk of childcare responsibilities during the pandemic are submitting fewer papers, while men are submitting 50% more (Kitchener, 2019). Extending the clock is beneficial, but it does little to account for the potential variability of productivity between candidates due to childcare responsibilities. Including letters that account for a decrease in productivity due to the pandemic can provide helpful context.

  • Prioritize asynchronous online participation in meetings and classes. This will allow caregivers to self-quarantine as needed, which is especially important for single parents and those caring for others in vulnerable populations (like eldercare). Asynchronous online participation also gives single parents much needed flexibility to participate in meetings and classes more fully. 

  • Allow faculty to teach online and staff to work from home as needed, particularly in instances where children are prohibited from coming to campus (Syracuse University, 2020) due to restrictions on campus visitors. As childcare facilities and public schools determine their next steps, higher education needs to consider how to accommodate faculty, staff, and students, who may be without childcare as a result of the pandemic. This is also important for parents of children who are considered high risk (Pettit, 2020). 

  • Provide funding support to parents to help cover food, medical, childcare, technology, and housing expenses. Prioritize allocating funds to single parents and parents of marginalized identities, like women of color, parents with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, as well as LGBTQ parents.

  • Allocate funds to child care subsidies with priority given to low-income students, faculty, and staff which can help offset child care expenses for parents with children up to age 18. Such subsidies are beneficial at any time but especially during the pandemic when parents may face increased job instability and insecurity. Examples of child care subsidies can be found at University of Michigan (for students), Syracuse University (for staff and faculty), University of Arizona (for students), and Oregon State University (for students).

  • Have policies in place for cleaning and sanitizing lactation rooms regularly on campus that follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting facilities

The majority of research about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families has focused on the traditional nuclear family. Greater consideration needs to be given to the experiences and needs of single parents, parents with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, as well as LGBTQ parents and parents of LGBTQ children. More needs to be done to better understand the experiences of family members responsible for eldercare, as well as care of family members with disabilities. This research would benefit from considering the experiences of staff, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students.

 

Immigrant and International Populations

Because of the enhanced restrictions on mobility, the massive loss of work and income-sources, and the difficulties undocumentation places on access to health services (specially primary care providers), immigrant communities, and especially undocumented immigrants, are among those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 crisis (Page, Venkataraman, Beyrer, et al., 2020). Thus, immigrant students and children of immigrant parents may face increased hardships during the following academic year (or however long the effects of the pandemic last), including the impossibility to cover tuition and/or the need to stay home as caretakers for other members of their family unit. Because migrant communities are complex, to adequately address the needs of migrant students the first step should be to design good local working definitions for the term “immigrant student,” especially to distinguish them from international students, whose needs may overlap but are not identical with the first. A socially just approach requires that higher education institutions:

  • Facilitate deferrals for immigrant students who may need to stay home for a longer period of time to care for their families. This measure must be coupled with a plan to 

  • Provide incentives for these students to return to campus and complete their degrees, including scholarships, tuition waivers or other forms of economic support.
  • Provide clear resources and information for students enrolling for the first time to access economic support and scholarship programs, and point to resources available to them in the area.
  • Make sure that colleges can accommodate and support students in case a second Coronavirus outbreak forces national and/or international travel-bans by providing access to food and housing on campus.

International students are also specially vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. Due to travel bans and safety concerns, many international students were unable to return to their homes during the summer break and have stayed on campus or paid for off-campus housing during the summer  (Sahu, 2020). This means that these students and their families would have incurred extraordinary expenses in order to secure their well being abroad, but also that these students have likely spent long periods of time in isolation, with insufficient support from their family and communities. Additionally, as a consequence of persistent misinformation campaigns that associate the virus with particular ethnic groups, races or countries, international students --especially Chinese students-- have been victims of racial discrimination, and are very likely to encounter a hostile climate upon their return to campus or even as part of online classroom settings (Devakumar, Geordan, Sunil, et al., 2020; Xai & Du, 2020). A socially just approach requires that higher education institutions:

  • Design a plan to mitigate the economic burden imposed on international students, by reducing or comping housing expenses.
  • Implement a thorough anti-racism campaign to prevent the further development of a toxic campus climate.
  • Provide and secure sufficient access to counseling services for all students, and hire bilingual counselors for migrant students.
  • Ensure that on-line teaching platforms and methodologies are truly sensible to students with unequal access to technology, bandwidth distribution, and restricted access to some sites and platforms (depending on their home country).
  • Create services to support students requesting visas or having visas denied.

More research needs to be done on how discourses of racism and xenophobia as well as policies that materially restrict access to higher education for international and immigrant students will impact these populations participation in higher education in the long-term. In addition, disparities in access to technology suggest the need to study further what socially just online pedagogies look like (Kvasny, 2006; Tawfik, Reeves, & Stich, 2016). 

 

Language Access 

Universities cannot ignore that they are part of larger communities who, like students and faculty, depend on accurate, accessible information to make health related decisions. In late March, ProPublica reported on a Hungarian woman who died in a Brooklyn hospital because they didn’t have an interpreter and left her unattended for days with COVID-19 symptoms. There are stories like this across the U.S. and abroad.

La falta de acceso a la información, especialmente en lenguas Indígenas, también es un gran problema actualmente durante esta pandemia en los estados unidos. Además, el racismo en el sector de salud va mano a mano con el acceso a la información, e impacta gravemente el nivel de atención médica que reciben las comunidades migrantes y racializadas en este país.

Por ejemplo, en marzo del 2020, el condado de Pennsylvania declaró que el racismo en sí es una crisis de salud pública, dado que las comunidades racializadas, especialmente comunidades Negras, ya sea Indígenas, Latinas, Africanas, y/o Afroamericanas regularmente son impactadas por el racismo en todos los sectores de salud. Esto no es solo ahorita durante la pandemia, si no es algo que ha creado la colonización y la supremacía blanca en todo el mundo. Actualmente, las comunidades migrantes y racializadas siguen siendo atacadas por el gobierno americano, y no reciben información sobre la prevención del virus en sus propias lenguas. Personas indocumentadas en los estados unidos no han recibido ningún beneficio del gobierno durante esta pandemia, a pesar de que estas comunidades contribuyen regularmente al bienestar de este país, dado que muchas personas migrantes son consideradas trabajadores esenciales durante este tiempo. 

El racismo y la colonización en cuanto a la gestión de la información también están impactando la propagación del virus COVID 19, especialmente en estados y áreas donde viven personas migrantes y racializadas en los estados unidos, incluyendo el distrito de Queens en Nueva York que sigue siendo gravemente impactado por el virus. Los hospitales, especialmente en áreas donde viven personas de bajos recursos, no tienen la capacidad de atender a todas las personas infectadas con el virus, y el gobierno no está haciendo lo posible para ayudar. Es más, el gobierno está intencionalmente perjudicando a las personas mas vulnerables del país, abriendo negocios y exigiendo que las personas esenciales se reporten al trabajo a enfrentar todos los riesgos de salud. Al mismo tiempo, los gobiernos estatales y el gobierno federal del país fallan en reportar números actuales de víctimas impactadas por el virus, lo cual causa una confusión en el público respecto a la gravedad de la situación. 

Muchas personas con dominio limitado del inglés en Florida son trabajadores agrícolas esenciales que arriesgan sus vidas para mantener las tiendas abarrotadas en medio de la pandemia. Por ejemplo, el estado de Florida, como otros estados en el país, está actualmente abriendo negocios prematuramente, a pesar de tener varias advertencias contra la apertura de parte del departamento de salud. Esto está poniendo a los trabajadores esenciales, y en realidad a todos los residentes en alto riesgo. 

The Washington State Hospital Association has set out a list of language access guidelines to follow, including for folks who do not speak English and folks with LEP and communication disabilities. Ultimately, universities should consider their responsibility when it comes to language access, keeping Universities in the context of the entire community surrounding our campuses. Not only should COVID-19 policies be in multiple languages but also be accessible to folks with varying needs and who work in different contexts. University students come from multiple linguistic, racial, and cultural backgrounds, and they contribute to and benefit from local communities who also embody this multi-layered diversity. Thus, it is not enough for Universities to provide information related to the virus in English; University opening plans, safety protocols and procedures,as well as testing and isolation resources should be shared with and made available to the local communities that support and sustain University infrastructures year round. 

Las instituciones académicas tienen la responsabilidad de apoyar a las comunidades que en realidad nos mantienen. Por ejemplo, en Florida, varias organizaciones civiles están organizando iniciativas para apoyar a las comunidades migrantes durante esta crisis, especialmente para personas en el estado con dominio limitado de inglés. En el mes de abril, una coalición de 40 organizaciones de los derechos de los inmigrantes hicieron un llamado al gobernador de Florida y a otros líderes estatales para que respondan por falta de recursos financieros de emergencia financiados por el gobierno federal para personas con dominio limitado del inglés en toda Florida mientras el estado sufre de la pandemia COVID-19.

Los defensores advirtieron que la sorprendente ausencia de recursos críticos accesibles a las numerosas poblaciones multilingües del estado viola el Título VI de la Ley de Derechos Civiles y sus reglamentos de implementación incluida la Orden Ejecutiva 13166. La falta de recursos ha generado confusión y angustia ya que comunidades LEP enteras han quedado en la oscuridad, y las universidades, como fuentes de investigación, tienen la responsabilidad de intervenir en estas injusticias.

 

Implications and Conclusion

According to researchers, short of a vaccine, large scale testing and social distancing measures is what will allow people to go back to work and school safely. Until then, and despite what universities or governments want to admit or think is economically viable, it is likely that the U.S. will be in waves of quarantine for the next year and a half. During this time, it is the responsibility of higher education to create socially just policies that protect and support marginalized communities. This report serves as a way to start conversations, deliberations, and the much needed policy work at universities in the face of this pandemic.

 


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