Rider professors present caregiver survey to AAUP

By Hailey Hensley

The ongoing pandemic has impacted every area of life for most people. One distinct area of life that has significantly challenged many people in the Rider community is juggling the responsibilities of parenthood with the responsibilities of being a faculty member.

On Feb. 2, members of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) were presented with a slideshow filled with data regarding a survey that had been conducted to gauge how faculty members were managing their responsibilities as parents and as educators simultaneously.

According to the data collected, 51% of Rider faculty members reported having caregiving responsibilities to dependents of varying ages.

Assistant professor of English Laurel Harris was one of the presenters for these findings. She described her own experiences as a parent of a small child.

“Being a caregiver and having a full-time job is always a challenging balancing act, but the COVID[-19] situation has exacerbated the struggle. At the same time classes went virtual last spring, my then three-year-old daughter’s home care shut down, and family members who had helped us in a pinch before were no longer available due to social distancing guidelines,” she said. “Though we are very lucky to have a two-income household, my spouse and I found ourselves struggling to do our jobs throughout the spring while caring for our daughter full time.”

Harris clarified that COVID-19 has made caregiving an especially complicated task, with school and daycare policies constantly changing while parent work schedules and other demands have not shifted in the slightest.

“Starting in the fall, we joined a child care share so I could teach remotely and keep up with course prep, grading, value responsibilities and some research. That said, balancing child care and work can still feel like much more of a scramble than usual,” Harris said. “Schools are always opening and closing, learners are in and out. I joined the child care share to have more consistency, and while we’ve avoided school closures it’s still been a messy and disorienting year.”

In the survey, respondents were asked what good requests could be made in negotiation to ease some of the burdens on faculty. The most popular response had 17% of respondents and stated that they would like additional tenure clock extensions, revised promotion and tenure criteria or short-term financial support.

Along with that, 80.4% of respondents answered that they felt caregiving should be seen as an important or top-priority issue for the AAUP to use in negotiations with the university.

Sarah Trocchio, assistant professor of sociology and criminology, discussed the gender disparities and sociological issues related to caregiving.

“I started my job at Rider in the fall of 2019, and as a sociologist, I’m well aware of the unique and gender-specific challenges that working mothers face in general, and in academia in particular,” Trocchio said. “Data conducted before COVID-19 consistently demonstrated wage disparities between women and men, as well as the unique barriers to promotion and lifetime earnings that mothers face compared to fathers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these challenges more pronounced, and I have serious concerns about what the future holds for other working moms like me.”

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