The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Beckie Supiano
May 31, 2022
As students have confronted the many challenges of the past two years, they’ve leaned on their professors for support. They’ve asked for accommodations, extensions, and flexibility. They’ve sought help coping with personal issues, including strains on their mental health.
It adds up to a lot of extra work for instructors. But that work has not been distributed evenly. Professors who are white, cisgender men performed less emotional labor — that is, managing students’ feelings and their own — in the early stretch of pandemic teaching than did their colleagues, according to a recent study based on faculty surveys from three colleges.
That uneven burden is driven by the different demands that students place on professors of different identities, according to the paper “Teaching College in the Time of Covid-19: Gender and Race Differences in Faculty Emotional Labor,” published in the journal Sex Roles. Instructors who are white, cisgender men, it says, have a “status shield” that protects them from students’ requests.
Cisgender men and women of color, white cisgender women, and gender-nonconforming professors did not have that protection, it found.
Both the data and further interviews suggest that “women of color were already tapped out,” says Catherine White Berheide, a professor of sociology at Skidmore College and the paper’s lead author. What changed, in other words, was that male professors of color and female, white professors began doing the amount of emotional labor that female faculty of color were already doing.