The Labour of COVID

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Andrew Stevens


This introductory article to the special edition of Workplace explores the effects of COVID-19 on the labour of post-secondary education. The global pandemic arrived in Canada at a time when many universities were facing the threat of performance-based funding policies, particularly in Ontario and Alberta. Yet COVID interrupted what appeared to be a neo-liberal hegemony and attempts by conservative governments to further impose audit cultures on to their respective university and college systems. At the same time, the pandemic exacerbated gendered and racial inequities on campuses, as scholars and staff were saddled with additional work and life responsibilities prompted by school and primary care facility closures. Popular e-learning platforms, like Zoom, grew in prominence (and profit) as universities quickly shuffled classes on-line, posing new threats to academic freedom and student privacy concerns. It is time to wrestle with how these problems should be confronted once the sensation of COVID-19 subsides. Are academic workers and their respective unions prepared? Some modicum of resistance and cross-profession solidarity, therefore, must be a bookend to this discussion as academic labour prepares for neo-liberalism’s counterattack in the post-secondary sector. For contributors to this journal, questions about self-care, increased workloads, demographic disparities, faculty association mobilization, and the undermining of community-focused experiential learning opportunities have come to define the labour of COVID.

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The Labour of COVID