Editor’s note: The following message was sent to Colorado State University faculty and staff on March 27 by Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros.
To our University Faculty and Staff Community:
In times of uncertainty and fear it is crucial to continue to take care of ourselves and one another for the good of our community. It is in the midst of crises like these that our most marginalized communities suffer enhanced oppression and inequities, and it is for this reason that we call your attention to continuing CSU’s strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and our Principles of Community. To aid you in these important efforts, we are providing guidance and resources to center equity in your new work situation. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and it will take collective action to ensure that our new virtual university environment is equitable for all staff, faculty, and students.
First off, we want you to know that we are here and we care about you. Many of us are struggling. Many of us are deeply worried about what is happening to our world, families, and communities, all while we continue to do what we can to support the university community through our in-person or remote work. We see you. We hear you. We share your feelings of concern, anxiety, and discomfort. Know that you are not alone and we are here to share the burden with you.
The following takeaways and resources have been collected from a variety of sources, including discussions on higher education social media feeds, suggestions from our own university community members, and discussions in the VPD virtual office space. These practices will aid your efforts to move forward in ways that are equitable and intentional. If you have additional suggestions or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the VPD. We are here to help you as we can.
• When checking in with staff or faculty who are working from home, please remember to approach your expectations with compassion and thoughtfulness. Many staff members will be juggling a variety of needs in their home environment, including caring for children, pets, spouses and partners, parents, and more. Keep in mind that this additional burden of care might not be equitably distributed in your colleagues’ households, or there may be no one else available to share the burden.
• Access to electronic resources is likely unequally available to your colleagues. Co-workers who live in rural or remote locations may not have the level of internet access necessary to support all of their efforts to work remotely, especially if there are multiple family members stretching the internet capacity. Several adults may be working from home while children are engaging in remote learning at the same time. This can be difficult both in terms of technology and physical space. As a result, colleagues may need to alter their work hours to allow for multiple family members to utilize the internet in their home.
• Remind yourselves and your colleagues that you are more than what you accomplish. In order to take care of ourselves during this anxiety-producing time, it is important to give yourself grace as to what tasks you are able to complete in a day or week. For many staff whose work will be severely altered by moving to a virtual environment, there may be a sense of loss or confusion as to what to do next. Allow yourself to work through those emotions and know that they are valid. Consider creating “water cooler-style,” casual, virtual check-ins for your team to share where they are at and how they are feeling on a regular basis.
• Supervisors, keep equity in mind when you make decisions about monitoring your remote employees and remember that privilege can show up here in terms of positional power. Ask yourself critical questions such as, “Who am I asking to report daily work tasks and who am I not?”; “What does professional courtesy and trust look like for our staff in this new environment?”; “On whom am I leaning more, and what extra burden might that be causing individual employees?”; and “How can I ensure the work for our office or department is shared equitably?” Consider also asking your colleagues, “How can I support you?”
• For advisors, support services, faculty, and anyone directly serving students in the virtual university environment, consider the unusual needs that a virtual university environment will create, such as time zone differences. Now that many students have traveled home, they are distributed throughout the country and the world and these student-centric roles may need to work outside of the typical 8 a.m. to 5p.m. timeframe in order to effectively meet student needs. Approach your expectations with flexibility for what the workday might look like compared to our traditional approach.
• This time is bound to induce stress, anxiety, and mental health strain. Not only are we pulling together as a community to support our students and one another, but we are also being leaned on by family, friends, and our neighbors. Be patient with yourselves and one another, and know that your mental health may experience drastic shifts from day-to-day as the situation develops.
• Be aware that there are reports across the country of internet trolls accessing private video meeting services to share inappropriate imagery or offensive language. This form of online harassment can be deeply upsetting, and if it happens within a video meeting you are in, please alert our office as soon as possible. To protect your meeting spaces, utilize privacy setting such as the “waiting room” feature in Zoom in which the host must approve all guests prior to them joining the virtual space.
• Emails, comments in video conferences, and other forms of electronic communication are not immune from incidents of bias. If you experience any incident of bias, the Bias Reporting System remains a resource for your use. Please be assured that we are still responding to reports.
• Incidents of bias towards Asians and Asian Americans have increased across the country and here in our very own university community. It is imperative that you not engage in racist narratives or promote harmful stereotypes. Do not use phrases linking COVID-19 to one country, race, or ethnic group. Scientists, epidemiologists, and experts around the world, as well as our own lived experience over the past weeks, show us that this virus is not bound to one group of people. This is a shared crisis that we are all susceptible to and we need to come together now more than ever. Be kind and be advocates for our community.
• Regardless of your own identities and relative status of health, it is important to prevent the spread of illness, particularly to help protect those who are most vulnerable to risks from infection, including older folks and those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems. Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control is a practical and necessary way to demonstrate care, support, and solidarity for others.
The Office of the Vice President for Diversity will also be releasing a variety of resources and support in the coming weeks through our monthly newsletter and on our newly redesigned website. Visit diversity.colostate.edu to continue engaging with us or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any suggestions or needs in relation to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Be safe, be well, and thank you for all you are doing to support one another and our community.
– Office of the Vice President for Diversity