Challenges and action perspectives for inclusive universities
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, most academics and students are now working from home, and the curriculum has been quickly transformed into online lectures, practicals, and exams. Wonderful, according to some: no more endless commutes, no more distraction from fellow students or colleagues, and fewer meetings. lndeed, recent research indeed shows that social isolation has positive effects on mental and physical health, and for the environment as well. Furthermore, for many it is associated with an increase in productivity. Despite these positive effects, it is necessary to emphasise the different challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. Prof. Semiha Denktaş, Dr. Gwen de Bruin, Dr. Katarina Putnik and Dr. Helen Tibboel (Diversity & Inclusion Office) did a research about the challenges that entail the COVID-19 crisis.
At home, there can be multiple barriers, such as a lack of day-care and extra informal care tasks for family members, or relationship problems and domestic violence. Furthermore, the substantial economic impact of the crisis has resulted in reduced job security. Even though the consequences of the pandemic affect the population in general, it is evident that some groups will be disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of this crisis.
For instance, the crisis appears to increase gender inequality in academia: couples tend to fall back on old-fashioned gender roles in which women have more informal care tasks
Problematic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis
For instance, the crisis appears to increase gender inequality in academia: couples tend to fall back on old-fashioned gender roles in which women have more informal care tasks. A variety of scientific journals have already noticed that during the last few months, the number of academic articles that were submitted by women has decreased dramatically. At the same time, men seem to become more productive.
Furthermore, economic differences are amplified by the crisis: students who depend on part-time work in healthcare will be likely to work extra hours and struggle to combine this with their studies. Furthermore, students working in the hospitality or catering industries have a considerable chance of losing their job, possibly reducing their ability to pay for their education. In short, among both employees and students, some groups will fall behind, both in the short and the long run, because they can no longer live up to the high standards of academia. lt is essential to realise that this is due to the social and economic circumstances of the individual and not due to their academic qualities.
The researchers underline that to prevent an increase in inequality, decision-makers at all levels must take responsibility. The article ends with the suggestion that local decision-makers start a dialogue with groups who have been affected most by this crisis, to conduct research on the most prominent and pressing problems, and to formulate advice for national initiatives. We call on national decision-makers to pay attention to the voices of students and employees and to take action to support and improve the functioning and well-being of students and employees. Finally, we call on all decision-makers to continue promoting diversity and inclusion, specifically in these difficult times.