The Costs of COVID

Sometime in my childhood my mother received a card that she liked well enough to frame and hang beside the kitchen sink.  It depicted an older couple looking stoic while getting soaked in the pouring rain while standing beside a forlorn-looking bus stop. 

“Little we complain, though we suffer much,” read the tagline.

My mother, I presume, might have given this card a glance when a sibling or I neglected our after-supper washing up duties, or when faced with any other number of life’s slings and arrows.

Certainly, it was impressed upon us that we ought never manifest the opposite of this slogan – to complain much while suffering little (I’m sure my mother can recall many instances when we probably did, but I will not ask her to remind me – no doubt she will anyway, unbidden).  And this has been on my mind over the last six months of life under Covid.

Yes, I can complain, but I know so many have suffered so much more.  I do not compare the difficulty I have had in transitioning to remote teaching to the difficulties my cousin has faced working in a seniors’ residence in Ontario.  Yes, my back is sore, I get “Zoom” headaches, I miss the sociability of campus, I’m worried about my students, and, yes, one of my kiddos asked me the other night “Daddy, why are you always on your computer?” with good reason.  But, I am not complaining.  The last six months has been a time of daily counting blessings in my household and trying to give some aid to those who have been much less fortunate.

Among those less fortunate are some of my MRFA colleagues.  

Faculty responded in large numbers to the MRFA’s Covid-survey.  President Lee Easton summarized the highlights of the collected data at our September meeting – the vast majority of us are working much more, have incurred out-of-pocket expenses, have concerns about our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and are struggling to deal with dependent care and to maintain work/life balance.  

It was in reading the comments of this anonymous survey, however, that we learned about colleagues dealing with very challenging circumstances – with serious health challenges, with partners recently unemployed, with being overwhelmed with work to the breaking point.  For the authors of these comments, our thoughts are with you and the MRFA wants to get you the help you need.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

These colleagues among us deserve our support, compassion, and empathy.  And yet, there were hundreds of other comments on the survey from faculty coping with the costs of Covid:  enduring stress, physical discomfort, overwork, and many variations on the theme of my personal litany above.  Reading such a chorus of sighs amounted to hearing a collective scream.  The costs of this pandemic have been considerable and, collectively, members of the MRFA are bearing a weight of them.

Only know that you are not alone.  

The experience of living under the pandemic has been diverse across our membership and this issue of Faculty Forum is devoted to exploring that diversity.  Within we can learn what it is like to teach on campus these days; how it feels to work with students without ever meeting them in person; what it is like to be on the receiving end of faculty requests for help at the ADC; how faculty are trying to stay social (or not!) via safe distance; and how online events can be profoundly moving and help mobilize faculty and students alike to change the world for the better.  We hope you enjoy and if you are interested in contributing to the next issue of Faculty Forum please send your story idea to

By Kirk Niergarth, MRFA Communications Officer

October 8, 2020