Well, here we go. We have found the worst policy to come out of higher ed during a pandemic. (Although, this working mom points out it would have also been awful during The Before.) Behold: Florida State University bans parenting during remote working. Now, before I tear this apart: I’ve seen a couple of different explanations of how this unfolded (none of which is anything but outrage- & what-the-hell-worthy!). But one explanation was that it’s just a reminder of their regular telecommuting policy that requires parents who are working from home to have childcare. My employer actually has that exact same policy; they just haven’t taken the cruel step to remind us of it during a bleeping pandemic, when already stressed-to-the-max parents have no alternative. The other explanation I’ve seen is that the story is misunderstood. That this policy applies only to staff…and only to staff who cannot do their jobs remotely. No matter how many explanations FSU offers, outrage and condemnation remain the lasting impression of this news. And that’s no surprise, and in fact, deserved. But here’s the thing. Now, while we can all agree that nobody can get safe childcare right now and that this announcement couldn’t have been handled or timed worse….what I don’t see anyone talking about is how do we expect higher ed employers to handle this as the pandemic continues unabated, long-term? Before you think I have any answer: I don’t. And neither does anyone else. In fact, a viral New York Times story from yesterday did a good job of summing up the issue: In the Covid economy, you can have a job or be a parent. Pick one. Parents like me can advocate. And we should, and loudly. And often. Especially those of us with sufficient career capital to push back on behalf of younger and less experienced peers and colleagues. And employers can continue to operate with grace and patience and tolerance. But for how long do we expect them to do that, as higher eds hemorrhage money and incur increasing costs? My employer has from the beginning made all
To say things are hard right now is an understatement. Amidst a global pandemic, we’re all struggling to adjust. To protect our health. To working offsite. To teaching online. To parenting while working at home. To schooling children and caregiving for others amidst all of that, too. But higher ed, too, is uncertain. Things are about to get bad. Very, very bad, I think. Worse than the great recession. Moody’s has downgraded the higher ed sector to a “negative” outlook for 2020. At the most severe end of the spectrum, analysts are predicting a 30% drop in enrollment. International students will fall off in droves as this goes on, and uncertainty over travel bans continue. Out of state students may well opt to stay put closer to home after being sent off campus for the duration of this semester. And, of course, even in-state students whose families have become unemployed will no longer be able to afford school. In many recessions, higher ed enrollment goes up, as people scrape together ideas on re-skilling and re-credentialing for new opportunities. And there’s need based aid. Both true. But this time, it’s different. Admissions officers are warning of a huge drop in enrollment. This is a new and never-before-seen level of volatility. Colleges have had to scrape together emergency funds for N-95 masks, tons more cleaning and sanitization, buy thousands more licenses to eLearning software, and hire additional medical personnel. None of which was budgeted for. So they have to dip into reserves to provide laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to students in need, HIPAA-compliant Zoom channels for counseling, additional security expenses to release otherwise-locked down external network access to data so that offsite researchers and employees can access it…higher ed is hemorrhaging money. And that hemorrhaging of money is already hurting higher ed. Now. This year. Right this second. What it will do in the near future has yet to be seen, as higher ed tries to overcome the crisis we’re faced with today. Public higher ed has been funding-starved for years, thanks to austerity measures, so it will face greater challenges in
This week I was a guest on a podcast called Personal Finance for PhDs. I shared my journey about how getting laid off forced me to face my budget, and the strategies on how I tackled getting out from debt and back on top of my finances. In this post, I talk about how getting laid off forced me to face ANOTHER reality about my museums career: that I was being exploited.