Survey of UO community reveals caregiver concerns

A recent survey shows UO faculty and staff who care for children, elders, and other dependents are very concerned about available caregiving support for the upcoming academic year during the COVID-19 crisis.

In June, associate professor of African and medical history Melissa Graboyes, Clark Honors College, conducted an independent survey of student, staff, and faculty views and concerns about reopening the University of Oregon campus in Fall 2020. Nearly 2,300 campus community members responded to the survey, including 38% of the total number of faculty on campus.

A total of 315 faculty and staff who took the survey agreed with the statement, “I am concerned that a lack of available child care or elder care in the Fall will impact my ability to teach or perform my professional duties,” with 60% of those stating they “strongly agree.”

When asked if there are “others for whom you provide day-to-day care,” 165 of all respondents said they care for one or more children between 0-5 years of age; 226 care for one or more children between 6-12 years; 139 care for one or more children above age 13; and 89 said they care for one or more adult dependents.

Caregiving challenges also contributed to overall comments about faculty experiences with remote teaching during the Spring 2020 term. Of the 278 faculty who provided feedback on teaching last spring, the largest set of comments—41% (N=115)—were entirely negative or reported only problems or deficiencies. Some of the challenges mentioned included issues of digital equity, technology, modifications to pedagogy and format, and changed living/work conditions such as additional child or eldercare responsibilities:

“The hardest parts of teaching remotely this Spring were 1) having so much more work to do to get the course online 2) balancing extra work with UO TTF spouse, while also taking care of our 3 kids (age 6 and younger) because we no longer had childcare; and 3) finding out that NTTF contracts were being renewed with reduced length and reduced FTE after all this. It is unconscionable to be treated by the university this way after the Herculean efforts NTTF put in to keep enrollment up by providing quality remote education.”

Many open-ended comments about returning to campus in the Fall also raised questions about the UO’s ability to provide safe working conditions, changed living/work conditions, and needed support for caregivers:

“I have a lot of anxiety about all of the pieces of our lives matching up: What K-12 schools will be doing greatly affects my ability to be on campus because I have children. Our home also includes an elder who is quite old. What if UO expects me to be working in person but I have childcare needs? What if the situation on campus doesn’t feel safe? and I am endangering my almost-90 year old grandparent by being exposed to people all day and then coming home? I hope UO will make it possible for people to continue working remotely if they are not able to deal with distancing, masks, testing, quarantining, contact tracing, etc.”

“I think UO should proceed cautiously because if even one student, family member, or community member dies as a result of opening prematurely before there is a vaccine, that is too many. It will hurt trust and hurt UO enrollment numbers in the long run to be responsible for people dying. Online learning may not be ideal but students can adjust to it. There should be a priority on resuming childcare for students and faculty (Moss Street and Vivian Olum) before school opens. Students care more about staying safe and healthy and having adequate financial resources, and childcare if they are parents, than they do about resuming in-person class and football games. Health, money, and childcare needs come first. It’s a significant source of stress to be worried about our health, not having childcare, and not having funding (for GEs), but it is a lesser priority to resume in-person classes quickly.”

The survey had 2,298 University of Oregon participants. 35% (N=806) of these were faculty, making faculty the most well represented group in the survey (38% of the total 2,094 faculty on campus). Undergraduates made up the largest number of survey participants (N=849), but this represents only 4% of the total 18,903 students. 195 graduate students participated; 5% of the 3,712 on campus. 14% (N=448) of all 3,134 staff members contributed to the survey.

The complete survey results and analysis are available here.