Friday, March 25, 2011

another family friendly victory

Tiny U is on a roll!!

I'd never heard the term "fill fund", but that's what we call money to replace faculty members who take leave. When a colleague takes maternity or paternity leave, or invokes family or medical leave of any sort, the university policy states that the department must find a way to fulfill their duties. In practice, this means a colleague taking on one or more extra courses, sometimes for most of the semester. Since we're a small university, and far from the madding crowd (read: middle of freakin' nowhere), we don't have graduate students or redundancy in our faculty. In most cases, there isn't anyone in the department who can take on another faculty member's classes with ease. For example, if Crazy Colleague were to be institutionalized, I'd have to take over her upper-division classes on ethnographic fieldwork and women in East Asian society. Uh, sure.

In the past, this has led to resentment, even under the best of circumstances. Nobody wants to teach 16 credits at one time (says the woman teaching 16 credits at one time). Since women who take maternity leave are often untenured, there is always the concern that their colleagues will still feel resentful when the tenure case comes up for a vote.

Enter our Dean, whose name will always be spoken with reverence in my household. She created the "fill fund", which will pay people to take over their colleague's classes. In some cases, we may even be able to pay a grad student from some other university to drive three hours to Tiny U and teach the course. This is a huge victory! Alas, our Dean is joining our sainted Department Chair, and leaving Tiny U for greener pastures.

I'm sending out more job applications.

One last note: this is another example of how family-friendly culture trumps family-unfriendly policy. The fill fund is entirely within the discretion of the Dean's budget. Without changing one letter of U policy, she made a huge improvement in our maternity/paternity/family/medical leave practice. Good on her!

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