Cal State University (CSU) faculty, including those at Cal Poly, are petitioning for CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro to provide COVID-19 related leave during spring quarter for faculty who are also caregivers.
The campaign sponsored by the California Faculty Association proposes paid leave for instructors to take off one course during the quarter, and other faculty such as counselors to take off up to eight hours a week.
Cal Poly faculty have experienced increased domestic responsibilities as the pandemic has kept their children home from school and impacted the daycare options available.
“Faculty parents are stretched thin,” California Faculty Association-SLO Chapter President and history professor Lewis Call said. “They want to give their students the high-quality education that Cal Poly students expect and deserve, but they also want to be there for their kids and other family members.”
Biological sciences professor Kristin Hardy and her husband, Sean Lema, are both professors teaching at Cal Poly while homeschooling their two children and caring for an infant.
“This is so hard, what I’m being asked to do,” Hardy said.
During fall quarter, Hardy was able to use Family’s First Coronavirus Relief Act leave (FFCRA) to reduce her course load and took unpaid leave this quarter. She says it’s not a sustainable practice, though, because they can’t keep up with mortgage payments without two salaries.
Last year Cal Poly offered faculty the COVID-19 Paid Administrative Leave (CPAL) program, but the program expired in December and only addressed the needs of a subset of faculty.
The CSU recently offered a program that would mimic the leave available in spring and fall 2020 quarters, but the union rejected the proposal, according to CSU Spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp.
The petition states that many faculty and staff have had negative experiences with both FFCRA and CPAL and requests that any relief program implemented be flexible enough to cover a wide range of needs.
Helping the faculty is the most important thing that the university can be doing right now, Hardy said. Everyone is struggling right now, she said, no matter their situation, and giving relief so that faculty can balance their workload with their life will positively affect students too.
“Since faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, it impacts students too,” Call said.
The CSU has already rejected the union’s new proposal due its potential disruption of student learning.
“Their proposal would entail removing established faculty from the classroom several weeks after instruction has already started,” Uhlenkamp said.
As of Feb. 26, more letters need to be sent to meet the union’s goal of 300 letters.
“The CSU understands the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic including the potential for our valued employees to manage family responsibility while simultaneously serving the university,” Uhlenkamp said. “We will continue to engage CFA in the hopes of coming to a timely resolution.”