(Re)Crafting Narrative Fragments of Personal Sense-Making during COVID-19: Pieces from our 2020 MCQ Forum Essay

For the August 2020 issue of Management Communication Quarterly, the journal has published an OPEN-ACCESS forum essay where a multicultural team of organizational communication scholars, from different universities, reflected on our collective sense-making of the historic COVID-19 pandemic. The essay builds on personal narratives from each of us on different questions posed by the lead researcher, to create a beautiful mosaic from our words, ideas and feelings. Below, I try to another iteration, by crafting together my fragmented narratives from an earlier, unedited version of the essay, to re-present those forms of expression, to create a new/old essay rooted in praxis. Thank you for reading.

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New publication: What is “water privilege”? And how do we perpetuate it in our everyday language, to dismiss the problems of people who lack water access?

When I began work on the Detroit Water Stories project, back in 2017, I was puzzled why more people living in the city and suburbs were not aware of or perturbed by the mass water shutoffs that had already impacted close to 100,000 households, since 2014. This was, after all, an issue that the United Nations had condemned in no uncertain terms as a major violation of human rights, after the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department started disconnecting water for residents who could not pay their bills — and in the richest country of the world, no less!

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“Appreciation” seems an inadequate word for thanking Grad Student Labor

We are still in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, and my university has declared this week to be Graduate Student Appreciation Week. I think this is a wonderful move, both for graduate students and faculty, because it helps anchor us to each other and reminds us of how much we really, crucially depend on each other, especially in a R-1 setting. I think this is a wonderful move, not just because it foregrounds the social connections that remain crucial despite the physical distancing measures presently in place, but also because it emphasizes that this dependence is not just the resource-based variety (as in, “I need you to collect data for me,” or “I need you to write a letter of recommendation for me”) but involves emotional investment and labor from all parties — perhaps too much of it, at times. At the same time, this recognition invites further introspection about the lived experiences and conditions of our graduate students, challenging faculty to think beyond the staid (and quite possibly rose-tinted) nostalgia of “in the days when I was a grad student…” to listen to and act in response to their concerns. Whether this is about grad student stipends, housing, diversity and inclusion within the department, bureaucratic red rape, bullying, … the list goes on (sadly).

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