Organization of Women Faculty talks equity amid COVID-19 with Provost, deans

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Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Rebecca Crown Center, which includes the office of the VP for Business and Finance. University administrators emphasized the Community Safety Advisory Board as a “clean slate.”

Haley Fuller, Assistant Audio Editor

The Organization of Women Faculty held a discussion Tuesday with Provost Kathleen Hagerty, as well as the undergraduate and Pritzker School of Law deans, about gender equity for faculty in the pandemic. 

This forum was one of 11 requests from the OWF’s Sept. 21 Call for Immediate Action, which made recommendations based on a survey that received nearly 200 responses out of the 725 full-time women faculty at Northwestern. The survey result showed many women faculty have experienced significant increases in caregiving responsibilities, both at home and with their students because of the pandemic. 

“A theme of our recommendations is that the goal of equity in a world where the coronavirus is distributing burdens inequitably requires differentiated responses,” the Call for Immediate Action reads. 

Political science Prof. Karen Alter, co-chair of the OWF, said teaching has become more draining and research has been put on hold, potentially causing problems for tenure-track faculty.

Other recommendations include providing additional childcare subsidies, allowing faculty into their on-campus offices or helping them create productive workspaces at home and workload relief. The recommendations also call for the appointment of a new associate provost for faculty to help with faculty wellness and “making a real plan to remedy the inequalities the coronavirus has revealed, created or exacerbated.” 

Hagerty had previously served as associate provost for faculty before assuming the role of provost, but the role has yet to be filled in her absence. During the Zoom discussion, Hagerty said the University would create a long-term career recovery committee as soon as a new associate provost for faculty is appointed, which will be “right away.”  

Workload policies are determined by the individual schools. Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph spoke about the research recovery grants, which will be distributed for course reductions where possible. These grants are intended for women, faculty of color and faculty members with disabilities so they can use the time for their research and other projects.

SESP Dean David Figlio said his school has secured funding to grant fellowships to graduated Ph.D. candidates in the department. He said this will create teaching courses that give relief to faculty members who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“There is no one program that’s going to solve this, but I hope that it contributes meaningfully and helpfully going forward because we intend to have these for awhile,” Randolph said.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that President Morton Schapiro was invited to attend the discussion, but he was not. The Daily regrets the error.

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