Friday, September 16, 2011

automatic tenure clock stoppage: family friendly?

Tiny U just implemented a policy that automatically stops your tenure clock when you have a child. The policy applies equally to men and women, and to "natural" and adopted children.

In general, I support such policies and find them family friendly. But they make more sense at a research-heavy institution, where the "publish or perish" culture is stronger. Here, if one manages to teach one's classes, and maybe get a small article out in the year after your baby is born, you've done enough, and your tenure case won't be hurt (assuming is was strong before.)

I was asked by our Sainted Department Chair to stop my tenure clock when my son was born. She didn't think I needed to do so from a professional perspective, but no social scientist at Tiny U had ever stopped their tenure clock to have a child. She wanted someone to break the barrier, and she preferred it be someone whose tenure case was very strong. I ended up not doing so because I want to go up for early tenure.

And that's my problem with the policy. The only way to get a raise around here is to get promoted, since we've had frozen or cut wages almost every year since I arrived. Therefore, I would like to go up for tenure one year early (next year). I will have to petition the dean and department to allow me to shave one year off my required service period. I have reason to believe the department will grant my petition, but some people do have a negative reaction to junior faculty who ask for promotion when they don't seem to have "done their time."

If the new policy had been in effect two years ago, and my clock had been automatically stopped when my son was born, I would now have to petition to have two years (in effect) taken off of my required service. Hopefully, the faculty would understand that one of those years wasn't a "real" year off. Six weeks of maternity leave does not equal a year off of teaching! But it still could be a problem/annoyance to some young faculty members who are hoping to go up for tenure early.

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