ScienceSkepticism

Personal Tolls of the Return to In-Person Teaching

I’ve been away from The Chicks for several weeks because I’ve been working on my promotion package. There are lots of people going through some seriously heavy shit right now. I’m more fortunate than most, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forget this summer. Getting ready for faculty promotion is already a high stress gambit. But, I did it in the middle of a pandemic and with an increasingly totalitarian regime, no child care, a house full of people, and a husband who is working diligently in our hospital to take care of our community and need my support. I had the option to delay my promotion a year, but it felt like a failure to women in science to accept that. When we delay our clocks, we delay the increase in earning that comes with promotion. Over time, that decreased earning compounds and contributes to earning inequities among men and women faculty.

And, yes. I know that men can also extend their time to promotion. But, they don’t as frequently. So, I’ve worked hard and I’m gonna roll the dice and see how it goes.

Every extension comes with a cost

This month, my university re-opened its doors to undergraduates wanting to attend in-person classes. These decisions are far above my pay grade and I’ve been assigned a mix of online and in-person teaching. I’ve clung to hope that if we all just stayed out of large groups, washed our hands, and wore our masks, we’d be okay. Part of why I love my state is that there is a real sense of community here. People generally help each other and there is a general culture that we’re all in this together. Maybe that’s why it’s been so heartbreaking to see some of the people in my community (and not just students) push back against public health recommendations.

The response to having a large number of people return to a place without comprehensive public health policy has been, unfortunately, predictable…

12% of my students are now in quarantine

Every day I get a list of students with a new COVID exposure who have to go into quarantine. Not all of these students are picking it up in bars or by engaging in risky behaviors. The reality is that we now have  community spread.

This morning I went for a run because I was feeling claustrophobic. I put on my mask and went across the street to the park. I made sure that my mask covered my nose and mouth whenever I encountered other people, which was frequently. Today is a beautiful day and the park was busy. Out of everyone I encountered, I only saw two other masked crusaders. It made me sad because we’ve already been socially distanced for nearly 6 months. We’re pretty extreme practitioners because Strange’s patients are immune-compromised and we get regular reminders from the hospital to keep “doing our part” and to be in this “together.” Now, with such widespread infection, we’re losing something else. We haven’t traveled, or gone to restaurants, or been in crowds, but we had developed a small circle of like-minded, mask wearing, crowd avoiding friends that we had been interacting with. Now, with rampant infection at the university, it doesn’t feel responsible to keep interacting with them. I feel sad at the thought that the little bit of social interaction we had found is being taken away. One of the hardest parts of all of this is the loneliness. Even for seasoned introverts like yours truly.

So, here we are. We have no comprehensive public health policy. We’re 6 months in to the pandemic, 3/4 of my university hospital’s ICU is filled with COVID patients, and our numbers are climbing. We sent students home to flatten the curve and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed and we undid all of that good work in about two weeks.

I send love and good wishes to you all, my dear readers. We are truly all in this together. Maybe not in the way our institutions would have us believe, but together nonetheless.

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Isis the Scientist

Scientist, mother of the iKids, Strange’s wife, professorial, diversity, Iowan, bikes, shoes, debt free zealot, post-stomach. Old crone of a blogger who just never learns. Not close to affiliated with my employer.

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