“Family-friendly” tenure track proposed by university panel

BY HUGO TORRES

Recognizing the inherent difficulty in raising a family and staying on the tenure track for an academic position, the National Panel of Presidents and Chancellors (NPPC) issued a report last Thursday recommending that tenure track demands be balanced by family-friendly policies. The proposals in the report aim to enable young academics more freedom to devote time to family without sacrificing the possibility of advancement in the academy.

The report’s aim is to find ways “to create more flexible career paths for the tenure-track professiorate to enter, thrive in, and retire from academia.” The report notes that although enrollment at undergraduate and graduate levels among women and minorities continues to grow, “women tend to be less likely to pursue tenure-track faculty positions at research universities after earning doctorates, and anecdotal evidence suggests the same is true for PhDs of color.”

White males are also not excluded from these concerns, as “young white male faculty are making career sacrifices for parenting and caregiving at a much higher rate than their senior counterparts.”

Women currently account for 51 percent of doctorates handed out but make up only 38 percent of full-time faculty.

The report details problems that lead to fewer women in the academy, notably that married women with young children are half as likely to enter tenure track positions as married men with young children. Furthermore, even at institutions where family-friendly policies are in place, few faculty take advantage of such policies for fear of harm on their careers. To remedy this, the NPPC report recommends addressing faculty concerns through various means. Creating “re-entry opportunities (e.g. post-doctoral fellowships) for PhDs who seek tenure track faculty careers later in life,” is one proposal offered, as is abolishing “penalties in the hiring process for documented dependent care-related resume gaps.”

In short, the report encourages greater flexibility being given to faculty trying to raise a family, so as to not penalize academics who want a senior position but also want to raise a family.

The NPPC is comprised of senior administrators from ten universities. Its report was issued on the same day that the presidents of MIT, Princeton, and Stanford issued a rebuke of the controversy generated by Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ comments regarding “innate differences” between women and men when it comes to math and science.

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