Post by Piper H
One of the first significant losses for me during this pandemic was the loss of my laptop in a work from home incident featuring a six year old who “DIDN’T DO IT ON PURPOSE!!!” In the grand scheme of things obviously this is not much of a loss (no my stuff wasn’t backed up, yes I know, etc), but since every single email from my university and department has been about how I can Keep Teaching Online, well it has been hard. I don’t have money for an iPad. In a touching and bizarre show of faith and charity some of my students tried to figure out how to legally gift me one. Fortunately before we were put on lockdown I was given two third gen iPads, and it is on these that I fight through technology whose system requirements I don’t meet. It’s a headache. Or it would be if I could feel anything over the near constant anxiety in my chest and throat and mouth (am I having trouble breathing??).
I say all that to say this will not be my best post. And I’m not living my best life. And I have more than the normal number of complaints but I no longer get the energy to share them.
What brings me here though is a compromise between fire and fatigue. I am mad. I am on fire with rage at my own department but I also don’t feel like I can do anything about it so this post is to ease my guilt a bit. Or maybe it’s a plea for help. Who needs labels when the world is ending.
As an aside I just want to point out that in August of 2019 I was incredulous that I was supposed to be prepping calc lessons when the Amazon was on fire and children were being placed in concentration camps in my own supposedly not nazi-run country. I was incredulous that I was accepting money from an employer that was putting its students and our natural resources at risk in the name of astronomy. In August of 2019 I was struggling with the morality of business as usual and now I’m supposed to provide content and consistency in the middle of an un-ignoreable global disaster that affects us all and threatens us with local terrors.
A friend said Maunakea was getting us ready for this. And here I am with my table and chair I used at the Bachman sit-in, because working from my parking spot is the only way to get enough distance from my kids when it’s my turn to work. And just last night I had a Zoom call with people I met last semester through efforts to protect the Mauna. The call was regarding organizing to make sure people are taken care of as things inevitably get worse. And this afternoon I had a group call with kia’i (protectors) continuing to virtually gather for song, prayer, and community in this time that is so hard for anyone who cares about others.
I got off the call and thought where is my department? Our grad students are not able to unionize and don’t make a living wage. Their unrecognized union is taking action, but are our grad chairs? I emailed our office to find out if our custodians were okay; they said they were set, but if anything changes I don’t know if they can get in touch with any of us. We are living through the coldest most callous version of all of my complaints about dehumanized math.
If we lose a member of our community to illness due to lack of funds, lack of resources, or lack of connection, who cares if we successfully zoomed our lectures??
I’ve heard it said that we have an obligation to our students to provide them what they paid for, but what about our moral obligations to each other? If I’m having breakdowns because I have to navigate care givers whose exposure I can’t control, whose availability I can’t rely on, and I get a mass mailing with a thousand links about administering exams, all I can think is my workplace doesn’t care if I survive this.
And the worst thing is I know I’m super privileged in this.
Everyone make connections; reach out to others and let’s remember those who didn’t. I will no longer be intimidated by mathematicians who failed this massive test in decency.
Sent from my borrowed iPad and seven layers of anxiety.
[Editorial: Edited slightly for clarity at the request of the author due to technology challenges. *Everything is definitely not fine.]
Posted from email:
Piper H captured everything my CUNY undergraduates are dealing with from the lack of laptops to the children in their homes to the intense anger with the government. Many of my students at CUNY are essential workers and have extended hours. Some are sick.
The public schools in the city are sending kids reading assignments and worksheets. I’m simply using youtube, worksheets, and a textbook. We don’t need to use this high tech zoom or video conferencing to teach mathematics and shouldn’t if our studemts don’t have the tech to follow. Those of us at urban public universities in areas directly hit hard by Covid19 need to teach asynchronously so students can catch up next month or in the summer.
Yet we do need to keep teaching because our students hope to graduate on time or take that course with a prerequisite in calculus. We need to be generous with the incompletes but still cover all the subjects they need to succeed in their engineering and nursing programs. But we don’t need to use high tech especially when it excludes our own students from the opportunities they deserve.
A CUNY Professor