More than 400 people tuned in to CFA’s COVID-19 Relief Town Hall last week to hear gut wrenching stories from working parents and caregivers and to take action to urge CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro to provide desperately needed relief.
“I have two young children, who are in 1st and 3rd grade… and similar to others, my children did not have online schooling for a few weeks and only 30 minutes with the teacher once a week. … I have to sit with my son the whole time he is in school,” said town hall panelist Sabrina Alimahomed, CSU Long Beach professor. “Nobody gets this: if you are trying to be a good professor and be there for your students and do the service work, serving on committees and mentoring students and showing up for them. To teach them and be there for them and come at odds with your family’s mental health. [At] What point can my son be ignored or my daughter?”
Thank you to Alimahomed and Fresno State associate professor Larissa Mercado-López, Cal Poly Pomona assistant professor Analena Hassberg, and CSU East Bay professor Shirley Yap for sharing their stories of juggling instruction with parenting and caregiving.
The four also touched on how the chancellor and CSU administrators rejecting COVID-19 relief creates a gender equity gap. Parenting and elder care responsibilities fall disproportionately to women and people of color. By standing idly by, the CSU is watching the creation of a long-term equity gap: one in which the careers of junior, female, and faculty of color are side tracked. During COVID-19, working parents and caregivers have less time and opportunity to devote to research, mentoring, publishing, and other service work needed for retention, promotion, and tenure.
If you missed the town hall, you can watch it here.
Two CSU faculty also wrote Castro an open letter detailing how their lives and those of their families and students have been upended by the pandemic and a lack of access to COVID-19 leave or relief.
In the letter, Akhila Ananth, associate professor at CSU Los Angeles and Michelle Soto-Peña, assistant professor at Stanislaus State write: “Do right by moms and dads and grandparents and caregivers of the CSU system. Do right by the system’s essential workers. Do right by the stakeholders of this great and proud university system. Be the leader you say you are. Have a heart and provide real COVID-19 relief for faculty.”
Following the town hall, CFA finally received data from the CSU on COVID-19 leave use. Approximately 590 faculty out of 29,000 Unit 3 members used either CPAL or Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in 2020. In other words, only two percent of faculty were granted COVID-related relief from CSU administrators. We’ve heard from many more of you who applied and were denied by their campuses.
It makes the CSU’s response to our relief request and open letter to Castro all the more callous. In The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert on Wednesday, Toni Molle said that “…the CSU made a very generous offer of additional leave for COVID-related issues. This proposal was very similar to the programs the university had in effect for Spring and Fall 2020”.
Let’s re-examine (again) the CSU’s proposal. At this point, the CSU is offering faculty 128 hours between now and December 31 to cover full-day absences. It’s similar to sick leave, but requires approval. The CSU offered other non-faculty employees 256 hours to use in this same period.
The requirement of full-day increments and no relief from work is why CFA proposes up to one course release. Now that we are well into the semester, faculty likely need some alternative relief. We want faculty to actually get some relief from the work, and calling out periodically means finding time at night or the weekends to make the work up. Faculty need something that folks really can use, that women can use to avoid continuing to fall behind their male counterparts in lifelong earnings and accomplishments.