April 29, 2020
“I think it’s important we continue dancing not only for mental health, but for the healing prayers...When we dance, it’s a beautiful feeling.” —Tiny Rosales, on Indigenous dancers sharing videos of themselves dancing in isolation.
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As quarantine continues, a disturbing yet familiar trend has emerged. Men in academia are submitting papers 50% more than usual, and women are submitting significantly less. As Professor Leslie Gonzales points out, this gender disparity typically plays out when academics take a year off the tenure-track to have a baby. While female academics are biologically and socially conditioned to spend the year caring for their child, male academics usually spend that time writing and doing research.
Now, as families are quarantining together, many women academics are shouldering the bulk of caretaking, entertaining children, and managing their children’s education. Whatever time they have left to work typically goes to daily tasks like email and logistics, rather than tenure-track projects. As Professor Erica Williams says, “Academic writing and research requires ‘the time and space to breathe and be creative.’ It’s not something you can do in fits and starts.”
Gender disparity during quarantine can damage women’s careers in academia. Gonzales raises a thought-provoking question: “When institutions are deciding who to grant tenure to, how will they evaluate a candidate’s accomplishments during Coronavirus?” By drawing attention to the issue, we hope that institutions will appropriately take into account the impact of family responsibilities during such a stressful time.
It’s important to bear in mind how the Coronavirus crisis may exacerbate pre-existing gender disparities and inequities. As you develop workplace policies and remote assignments with your colleagues and students, make sure to follow this DiversityEdu checklist to keep equity at the forefront.
According to the ACLU, the Trump Administration’s efforts to bury its fumbled response to COVID-19 has stoked anti-Asian sentiment. After President Trump referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" and as misinformation about the virus spread rapidly online, there was a steep increase in reports of physical and verbal abuse against people of Asian descent.
Scapegoating immigrants, or any group that can be easily “othered” by the majority, is not a new strategy. As Professor Alan Kraut reminds us, “Irish immigrants were blamed for cholera outbreaks in the 1830s, Jewish immigrants for tuberculosis in the late 19th century, and Italian immigrants for polio in the early 20th century.”
Throughout history, those in power have hidden their failures and consolidation of power by scapegoating whatever group they could easily “other” at the time. It is a well-worn strategy that exploits our natural fear of difference and uses that weakness to distract us from what’s really happening. As Cecillia Wang writes, the strategy is so effective because it’s “a way for people to vent their fears and rage, and place the blame on someone they can turn into a foreigner, a nobody, a thing less than human.”
When you hear someone repeating misinformation or derogatory comments about Asian people and COVID-19, let them know that Asian people are not to blame. Instead, draw their focus to those who hold decision-making power. Cecillia Wang also calls on Asian Americans to “stand in unity” and “step up and help raise the alarm” about the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on African Americans, Native and Indigenous communities, and the disability community.
We continue to hear reports of people across age groups failing to quarantine appropriately. While boomers complain about "college-age partiers on the beach," millennials and Gen Zers are scolding "boomers who won't self-quarantine." But Katherine A. Rowe, a university president, and Kelsey Vita, a student leader, write that professors and students are finding a newfound sense of shared purpose, mutual understanding, and duty to each other.
In other words, teaching and learning in quarantine is shedding light on the need and promise of intergenerational trust.
Many students are now finding themselves in mixed-age living situations, in contrast to the same-age living on their campuses. As a result, people are reconnecting and learning more about each other across generational cohorts. By operating under the limitations of quarantine, professors and students are learning the value of each other’s strengths, from technical and social media fluency to historical perspectives and experiences.
As Rowe and Vita emphasize, their campus community is attempting to listen to the lived experiences around them, address “the vulnerability of others in pragmatic ways,” and ensure all voices are heard.
We don’t talk about generational diversity often. But in the wake of generational tensions pre-quarantine, and at a time when socioeconomic inequities are so clearly on display—regardless of generational cohort—it’s encouraging to see people move past generational divides and unite under shared purposes.
If you find yourself alienated from people of other generations, consider what shared needs you may have with them during and after quarantine. It may help to melt the divide. If you’re teaching, learning, or working in a generationally diverse environment, speak up when age-based biases surface.