Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stop the Clock

A professor friend of mine recently noticed something in her department: all of the tenure-track women (except her) had stopped their tenure clocks for various reasons: e.g., for childbirth or for issues involving school-aged children with disabilities. All of these women used their unclocked years very 'productively', according to my friend, and ended up with more publications and grants listed in their promotion and tenure files than did my (single, childless) friend. My friend was feeling stressed out about her publication and funding record in comparison to the records of these colleagues.

Last summer, I wrote about an issue that is sort of related to this: whether or not someone has a "baby gap" in their CV owing to time away from research, most likely related to having a baby. In the ensuing discussion, it was clear that some of us who are fortunate enough to have a healthy baby and be healthy ourselves may use maternity/paternity leave or stopped-tenure-clock-time to get additional research done. I don't think anyone would deliberately procreate as a way to get ahead in their publication record (a strategy that has so many negative aspects to it, I shall not comment on it further), but if you find yourself able to get some work done at a time when you supposedly are not able to get much done, why not do so?

Ideally, universities and colleges will have the resources to give all tenure-track faculty a pre-tenure research leave of a term or more, or, at the very least, a reduced teaching load for a while. If this is not possible, presumably the expectations for tenure and promotion are adjusted accordingly. When I write a letter for someone's tenure and promotion review, I always look at their teaching load and use that as one element of my determination of whether their research quality and quantity seems reasonable.

I can see why my friend is stressed out about her situation and why she is comparing herself to her colleagues in this way, but I think that any productivity boost that comes from an unclocked year taken for family or medical reasons is unlikely to be so immense that it creates an uneven playing field (<-- sports reference!).

There are many factors that determine how many publications and grants one ends up with when the P&T file is submitted: professional factors and life factors, some of which are under our control and some of which are not. I think it is unwise to feel hostile towards those who stop the tenure clock, as if they have an unfair advantage.

Feeling that clock-stoppers have an unfair advantage is sort of like feeling that women in general have an unfair advantage -- "They had to hire a woman" is similar to "She wouldn't have gotten tenure if she hadn't stopped the tenure clock for a year". Although I chose not to stop my tenure clock, I strongly believe that tenure clock stoppage is something that the academic community as a whole should embrace as a way of making academe more appealing to a more diverse range of young faculty.


Hope said...

If you are able to be productive during a time when you are expected not to be (the reason you presumably stopped the tenure clock in the first place), then you should do the right thing and re-start the tenure clock. Clock stoppage is there—and should be there—for those that really need it. If you are fortunate enough not to, then don’t do it. No one forces people to stop the clock, do they?

I completely understand why your friend is stressed out and perhaps feeling some resentment. In this ultra-competitive world, some people will exploit every little advantage that they have at their disposal – even if, deep down inside, they know it isn’t fair.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

it creates an uneven playing field (<-- sports reference!).

FSP shoots! FSP scores! Nothing but net!

ChemProf said...

At my institution, there is an oddity of the timing of tenure decisions that unless a person takes off a full year, they cannot actually stop the clock. They might be able to focus on publication and grant writing while on a one semester maternity leave, not having to teach, but unfortunately they could not actually stop the tenure clock from ticking. And they would be doing without pay for that semester.

EliRabett said...

Life is unfair, and you can't even everything out.

On the other side, everyone can tell you why any rating system is specifically unfair to them

Anonymous said...

I agree completely. One could debate whether someone whose "clock" was stopped for a year might, under unusual circumstances, gain a small advantage, but what is unarguable is that: 1) childbirth takes an enormous amount of time for both parents (at least for those like me who actually need sleep), but disproportionately from the mother, and 2) that we already have a significant gap in tenured faculty in favor of men.

I have seen many exceptionally talented female students seriously consider leaving the profession, feeling that family and work cannot be balanced in our current society. This is a huge loss to science and our society. Mechanisms like tenure extensions help create the perception of a more level playing field are key to creating the best scientific workforce.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

I'm a male assitant professor and I have a year tenure extension due to sharing with my wife the caring of our 3-month old daughter. My wife (an assist. prof. in another department) also requested an extension--these requests are either officially pro forma or unofficially so. We also have "modified duties" for one term, which amounts to each of us not teaching for a semester. This allows me to take time to be with my baby, while speding the remaing time on research. We worked about 35-50% time over the summer before daycare, and now are at about 75% what we used to be. These features of my university--which I hear are not particualy unique to us--enable a pretty reasonable way to keep the lab going, while offering a work-life balance that is manageable. Given our respective ages, waiting until we got tenure would have materially increased the risks of miscarriage, birth defects and other health problems. The tenure track should not be thought of as a form of birth control. Fortunately for us, our research groups are able to function semi-autonomously on at least the week time scale, and that has made my decresed productivity tolerable. I am curious to know what options exist at other schools.

Adam Smith said...

As a healthy parent of a healthy child, I have trouble imagining any way that the extra time for paternity/maternity leave would come even close to balancing out the time drain entailed by actually raising your children. So I support FSP's support of playing-field leveling. I know there is least one specific paper I would have written had I been childless that I did not have time to write and got scooped on.

That said, I agree that the policies are unfair in a sense, mainly to people who have other drains on their time / personal lives but can't covert that into leave (sick parents, depression, etc).

These types of policies inevitably lead to the problem of classifying which types of personal issues "deserve" leave/stoppage and which ones don't.

It seems the real problem is the tenure process itself, with its single big decision. A graduated process for both promotion and (and, eventually, possible demotion for unproductive faculty) would make more sense. Having children would simply correspond to putting off promotion for a few years. So would learning to rock-climb (a "personal leave" application unlikely to be accepted, at least at my university).

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I suspect that if your single friend could not manage as many publications as her colleagues with children -- whether or not they stopped the clock -- this says more about the single professor's productivity, qualifications, and luck in research (assuming that she did not have some other serious non-child drain on her time) than it does about the tenure system at your institution. Even if parents can get work done while the clock is stopped, I doubt they are working at the same level of productivity that they were at pre-children (and pre-pregnancy for the mothers), and I also doubt that they can get back to full steam for a few years even after the clock is restarted. Pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children is so demanding and draining on your energy, time, and focus that a year or two of stopped tenure clock does not completely make up for the disadvantage relative to faculty without parental (or other major non-work) responsibilities. It most certainly does not provide those faculty who are extra hard working and able to balance work and family in a way that allows them to get something done right after having children with an unfair advantage. I would say that the great work ethic, superb organizational skills, and high efficiency of those faculty are what give them a completely fair, and well-deserved, advantage over some of their colleagues.

Unknown said...

I don't know how many people encountered something like I did, but it was interesting nonetheless.

I had my first child during pre-tenure time, timed (i'm lucky that way) to coincide with the beginning of summer just after a glowing third-year retention review. I had no teaching for fall semester, and then returned to 'full-time' when my son began daycare at six months. So, given the reduced load, I didn't stop my tenure clock.

here's the interesting thing: my productivity did NOT suffer in the year in which i gave birth and had a newborn, although it was exhausting, etc. Rather, my productivity suffered about 2 years later - when the 'pipeline' stuff i needed to get going didn't get done. This is a phenomenon of social science research and publication lags (i did tons of writing during my son's first year, but i didn't collect new data or get certain data ready to write up), but it meant that i came up for tenure concurrent with a zero-publication year; the timing meant that year didn't show up with my package (thankfully), but i've always wondered since about the rather diverse ways and timings with which childbirth and rearing affect productivity - it makes it very hard to have any kind of one-size fits all solutions to 'even the playing field'.

Alex said...

Clock stoppage is not perfectly fair to everyone in all cases. So what? As any freshman pre-med student could explain to you in great detail, neither are the grading formulas used by even the most progressive and enlightened of professors. Clock stoppage is a reasonable response to a simple fact of life: Having a kid is a massive time drain, but it is an absolutely essential time drain if society is going to continue.

(Unless we want a society where highly educated people don't reproduce, leading to the movie "Idiocracy.")

Will there be people who use the clock stoppage in different ways and as a result enjoy different levels of professional success? Sure. Guess what? Summer break is also used differently by different faculty. Should we take it away, or force some people to take a vacation while requiring others to show up a certain number of hours to balance it all out?

Perfect, absolute fairness is impossible. The best you can do is come up with some practical (albeit imperfect) solutions to widespread problems, and accept that the little stuff will never be 100% fair. Otherwise you turn into a pre-med freshman, and that's simply no good for anybody.

Kitty said...

Yes, Monisha! A parent who stops the clock for a newborn may emerge looking ok vita-wise *that year*. Newborns sleep a lot, so it is often possible to write up existing data. After the birth of my son, I also managed to stay on top of the projects that were already up and running (because it required little day-to-day supervision), but I got no new projects started. My son is now 3, and while I have papers that were written up at around the time of his birth, I have a serious lack of new data right now. I have just in the past year gotten things back up to normal speed, but it will take a while for this new work to be reflected on my vita. As a result, I have a major gap on my vita that is offset from the birth of my son by a year or 2.

I think it is important for evaluators to remember that a clock-stoppage may result in a decrease in vita-salient productivity in the year it was taken, but in many situations it actually shows up a few years later. Unfortunately, I think our default is often to only look at the actual period in which the clock was stopped.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like your friend is concerned that the 'increased' productivity of a few clock-extenders will get factored in to expectations for everyone: if they can accomplish XYZ and have a baby in N+1 semesters/years, you should be able to accomplish XYZ in N. It seems related to the mandatory furlough concern that if you are as productive in a year with a week-long furlough as in other years, will the university argue that they don't need to pay you for that extra week, ever, since apparently you spend it slacking off?

Anonymous said...

Your colleague should be thankful that these super-productive clock stoppers are procreating. If they weren't, they would probably make her look even worse.

I'm happy to hear that there are scientists out there maintaining reasonable productivity after maternity leave or other kinds of leave. It certainly was not my experience (kids definitely slowed me down) nor any of my female colleagues. Yet, I have heard other, mostly male, colleagues claim that maternity leave does give us an unfair advantage, and I suspect that we are held to higher standards because of our reduced loads and extra time til tenure. Wait, suspect? No, I actually have that gem in writing.

So no sympathy here. At. All.

Kate said...

At my university you can request a tenure rollback for all sorts of reasons, only one of them being having a child. So sick parents, other special needs, medical issues, additional teaching or service commitments, etc, all qualify. If this professor friend has any issues affecting his/her productivity I suggest applying for a rollback if possible. Universities largely don't mind them because they get another year out of you with lower pay.

Having a child means that overall, during my rollback year **and for the rest of my daughter's childhood,** that I will have decreased productivity. I'm ridiculously sleep deprived and I'm still nursing. I'm okay with it because I chose this life. But I also embraced the rollback as a tiny chance to rebalance things. Having an extra year gives me that extra time that I would have had were I still without a kid. If it turns out that my productivity is not as compromised as I fear it is, I intend to go up for tenure early (or rather, when I would have if I hadn't gotten the rollback). So I'm sort of flabbergasted by this professor friend's rather insensitive remark. Let's hope we don't have another Mommy Warz issue brewing here.

chemcat said...

I concur with many others-- your friend is looking at the wrong place to feel slighted. As many have said, the year my child was born was not that bad in terms of productivity. It was the *next* year that was bad, as I had to adjust to working 8-5 while doing a full load of teaching and service, with a child who still woke up two-three times per night and a husband on the road during the week...
Gone were the allnighters I had been able to pull in my single years; gone were the weekends at work....
And from what I see from my older colleagues, things might actually get worse in terms of hours once the child is in grade school, gets out at 2.30, and actually needs involvement with homework and such.
It is true that having a child has made me more efficient at work, and more motivated. I haven't watched TV in 4 years now (except one show a week I watch on the computer, to skip 15 mins of commercials ;-) )

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP,
Just found your blog, which was recommended to me by an FSP friend of mine. Unfortunately, in my department, at least one MSP has penalized faculty for their parental leaves by stating that both parents should have accomplished much more research during their "time off." The pendulum therefore definitely does sway in the opposite direction, and one must be very careful about cultivating an environment where leaves are not really leaves. Love your blog!

Kevin said...

"Newborns sleep a lot, ..."

Ah, if only that had been true!
I spent many nights walking around and around the living room calming our son for the first year. My wife and I alternated nights who got to sleep. (It was a good thing that she was not employed outside the house then, since he was nursing close to 40 hours a week.)

Children vary a lot in how much time they take up. Some kids take relatively little parental time, others require a lot of attention. You never know what sort of kid you will have ahead of time.

(Note: I did not stop tenure clock when we had a kid, because we did not manage to reproduce until after I got tenure. In our department, so far only one faculty member (male) has stopped the clock. If I remember right, that was for a seriously ill child, rather than a newborn, though he may have stopped the clock for the newborn also.

Note: stopping the clock is different from family leave. While the clock is stopped, the faculty member is still carrying a full teaching and service load, but the expectation is that research will be slower, so tenure decisions can be put off.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everybody, - it is the same on earlier levels, too. I've had two kids during my phd (which is time-restricted where I come from, - 4 year max) and I was lucky that our university granted me a paid maternity leave of each 3 month. I ended up having half a year longer, and more chapters and publications that others. Yes, I do get evil eyes because of that. Granted, my kids are of the sleepy kind, but the overall impact of having two little ones around oneself shortens research time considerably, even after those 3 month of maternity leave. I still feel guilty sometimes...

Anonymous said...

I did not stop my clock but did have one semester of teaching release. As mentioned by previous commenters, my productivity in terms of grants and papers remained at pre-baby level for the first year - but publications took a real hit two years later, a casualty of bone-crushing exhaustion. I found it very embarrassing to have that happen, although levels are now back up.

butterflywings said...

Anonymous 9.15am, please can we not bash the 'older' mothers? (I am already ZOMG 29 and childless!!)

I like Adam Smith's point. Everyone deserves a work-life balance, for whatever reason - personal and emotional issues, kid/ partner/ parents/ someone else is sick...they want to travel/ learn Russian/ learn to cook/ try another career... fine, do it, but don't expect to progress at the same rate as those who don't. Not everyone is set on the 'must be this rank by age 40' thing anyway.

That said: I think children aren't a lifestyle choice, though - men never have to 'choose between career and family, you can't have it all'. Nor is having friends, a community, relatives i.e. a life outside work, a lifestyle choice. It is time some employers woke up to that. Not wanting to be at work 12 hours a day doesn't mean you aren't committed.

Anonymous said...

can your colleague stop her tenure clock for reasons other than related to babies or health? is it only procreation that is deemed an acceptable reason for stopping the tenure clock?Are there other acceptable reasons for stopping a tenure clock? what about elder care for example? Or if she is heavily involved in volunteer/non-profit/humanitarian work?

for example I am a volunteer Search and Rescue responder and canine search handler (we go into urban disaster areas with search dog teams to find survivors). Other teams may specialize in wilderness search and rescue, other teams use cadaver dogs and they go to find human remains. many teams are made up of volunteers like me. This takes a HUGE amount of time for training and being on call. If I were a professor, would I be allowed to stop the tenure clock for one year in order to, for example, focus on training a new search dog for certification? Hey, lots of human lives could be saved if that were allowed, surely this is at least equal in importance to having one baby?

Francois said...

I am surprised that no one talks about how having children can sometimes teach you to be more organized. Were you doing as much (in total, not just academic) before you had them?

Ms.PhD said...

Could be other things at work here that no one has mentioned.

Where I work, it's clear that women with children are regarded differently than women without children. Somehow being motherly seems to make them more adult, less sexual, and less threatening, to the otherwise smarmy, insecure, domineering men in our department.

I wonder if your childless friend is being treated differently or held to different standards because of a mismatch in the perceived expectation of how much she was "supposed" to get done with her "extra" time.

For example, you might ask what about the men in the department who are at the same level? People probably assume she has it the same as they do?

The truth is, you can't compare, because in most cases men have supportive wives who do at least 2/3 of the housework- and that is with or without children!

My guess is that the tenure clock is not the only thing working against this friend, and I don't think it's about the quality of her research or her "luck", either (but it could be). My guess is that she is treated differently because she doesn't have children- this is especially bad if everyone else in the department does.

Having said all that, I don't really get the whole tenure clock thing. Wouldn't it be a better solution for everyone to have free round-the-clock onsite daycare?

btw, @Anon 9:15 AM, who wrote Given our respective ages, waiting until we got tenure would have materially increased the risks of miscarriage, birth defects and other health problems.

Try to imagine what it's like in fields where people routinely are still POSTDOCS long past this point.

Just try. I dare you.

Unknown said...

I see what you're saying and considered in that light I agree. But this also brings up shades of other (unfair) biases for me. Like the very parent-friendly PI who informed me that it was Ok for Bob and Mary to leave at 5 because "they have a family" but that I, single and child-free, "have nothing holding me back"...from working in the time that I could be spending on *my* other pursuits (which happen not to involve younger humans).

Here's where it really comes down to though: are single child-free pre-tenure prof and mom of special needs child pre-tenure prof in direct competition for the same resource? That is, is the university prepared to promote only one of them? This seems unlikely, and so (in an ideal world) whether one chooses to stop their clock or not isn't the point - the ultimate outcome is the point. Of course we don't actually live in an ideal world, but it's nice to image one sometimes.

Anonymous said...

One nice recent societal development (not limited to academia) is that it is not uncommon to have kids when you are older (past 35, past 40...). When academia pushes us to have kids later, at least it is not associated with a societal stigma among our own generation (at least for me, where I live).

Dirac said...

My experience is that academic science is for the most part sexist in that the majority of science faculty are men who have traditional stay at home wives. There are relatively few women science professor especially in the "hard" sciences. There are also in my experience relatively few male science faculty whose wives are similarly positioned in their careers. Instead the majority of my colleagues both at my institution adn in my field and related fields, are men with stay at home wives or wives who have "lesser" jobs (as mutually agreed upon by both spouses that the wife's job is the less important one because her primary function is as support staff to her husband).

{and before everyone starts contradicting this saying no both I and my spouse are faculty, bear in mind that you are not the majority...the very fact that you are even reading this blog shows you are not in the majority of science faculty)

Thus, is it any wonder that for the few women science faculty, that they are judged according to traditional gender stereotypes too which includes being mothers. A childless female science professor is simply too way out of the cultural and societal norm (being a female professor AND being childless; if you're gonna be a female science professor at least conform to other societal expectations for your gender such as having babies!). People don't feel comfortable with such a cultural deviant so she is likely to be scorned (secretly, due to political correctness) by her colleagues both male and female. Thus I think that your childless female colleague could be picking up on some of these stereotypical attitudes in others directed toward her.

almost everyone who has written here says they are already parents and the tone of the posts shows an attitude that having children is "a given" or "to be expected" and thus there is no question about the fairness of stopping the tenure clock. No one seems to care about stopping the tenure clock for any other reason, only for childbirth. there is already a subtle undertone of judgment upon the childless female professor that she is being unreasonable or jealous or incompetent, simply because whatever personal issues she may face in her life do not warrant the same importance as childbirth/childrearing as to allow her to have an extension on her tenure clock.

Anonymous said...

To people harshing on my comment about age playing a role (I'm 9.15 am): I wasn't making any comments about other people, but it was a factor in my wife and my decision about timing. My wife is 39 (I'm 35) and there are well-documented increases in health risks with age--that is not debatable. Of course, these are risks, so they are statistical, not guarantees. I don't know what to say about fields where it is acceptable to be a 40-year-old postdoc with a hope of an independent academic career--that is pretty much unheard of in my area (this is sounding like another disucssion one could have about age issues).

Kevin said...

We accept a lot of re-entry grad students, so a lot of our grad students are in their 40s and a few in the 50s. So a postdoc in their 50s would not be strange. Of course, most of these are second-career people, who have either already raised kids or decided not to.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous (10/22/2009 02:33:00 PM)

I think it's highly unfair to denigrate the complainant as only complaining because she doesn't have children. People who benefit from advantages don't tend to complain about them.

As has been noted by other commenters, childless women in science face certain challenges that the married-with-kids group don't (just as the married-with-kids group face certain challenges that the singles don't). Given that we are in the minority, the extra challenges faced by single/childless women in science are generally ignored in favour of more child-centered issues. So, yes, when faced with an attitude of "you should have done in 4 years what others took 5 years to do because you have *so* much free time on your hands, not having a life or anything", we get frustrated.

shan said...

I'm a female PhD student in engineering (almost done ... seeing the light at the end of the tunnel). I've been lurking in the background for a while now, and really felt the urge to comment on this one.

I actually really sympathize with your colleague. A year on the tenure clock is a long time, especially when the PI's postdocs and grad students continue to work while the PI is on ma(pa)ternity leave.

Our school allows pre-tenure faculty two 1-year delays due to childbirth(s), so that is a potential two extra years. I know a faculty member who had two kids and thus delayed her tenure clock by 2 years. However, during that time, even while on maternity leave, she still graduated students on the normal ~5-year timeframe. This meant that in the extra 2 years she got, she graduated 2 or 3 extra students compared to a faculty on the default tenure clock.

With each student publishing papers from their theses work, this absolutely meant she had a better publication record (at least in quantity) than other pre-tenure faculty.

Of course, you would hope the tenure committee would evaluate both quantity AND quality in one's publication record, but I completely understand where your colleague is coming from.

Alex said...

Regarding the comments by some who point out that even if you don't have kids (or other family or medical situations that might be documented as major burdens on your time) you should still be able to take some time away for things other than work:

On one level that is certainly a valid point. However, I don't think we should underestimate the extent to which family obligations may uniquely tax one's time and attention.

Also, let's say that we simply do away with clock stoppage or any other allowances for specific circumstances, and instead assume that everybody has a life outside of work (which involves significant time and attention commitments) and should be judged accordingly. In practice, this probably means recalibrating the expectation for what can/should be accomplished in 6 years (or whatever time frame).

That's easier said than done, but let's say it's done. There will still be some people who, due to good fortune, few outside burdens, an obsessive personal style, superb time management skills, or whatever else, manage to accomplish quite a bit more than that expectation in 6 years. One way or another, there will be differences in productivity. While most people might clear the hurdle in this more enlightened system, some will exceed it by a far wider margin than others. And no matter how well-intentioned the people running the system might be, it will be hard to not compare them with some others.

Indeed, if somebody does more things that benefit students (better teaching, pedagogical innovations, supervision of more projects), the profession (research and service), human knowledge (research and invention), the community (service, outreach) or whatever else, why shouldn't that person get some sort of extra reward? Why shouldn't that person be promoted faster, paid better, or whatever else?

So, even if your threshold expectation for tenure is duly considerate of all people's lives outside of work (whether it's family responsibilities or simply a desire to spend significant time on non-work and non-family things), you're going to have significant disparities in productivity. Some of those disparities will favor those who are either fortunate, obsessive, free of family burdens, or whatever else.

How many people are willing to accept a system where the expected quantity of work in 6 years is lower, but more pay, promotions, or whatever other perks are given to the obsessive, the fortunate, the less-burdened, or whoever else?

There are no easy answers here.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10/22/2009 10:29:00 AM wrote, I suspect that if your single friend could not manage as many publications as her colleagues with children -- whether or not they stopped the clock -- this says more about the single professor's productivity...

Hello. My comment isn't about children. Again, this is not a comment about children. This is about being single versus being partnered.

I'd like to see data comparing who teaches in their summers (taking themselves away from research) and who doesn't.

Let's say we started with data from faculty with PhDs awarded within the past 10 years.

I bet the single PhDs are more likely to teach in summers than married ones. I believe this is for financial reasons. For married PhDs, particularly if they're married to somebody who isn't a PhD, they have a chance for one spouse to support the other through summer while the other works toward tenure. I have seen married people enjoy this benefit again and again. It's a strategy couples use for long term financial gain. And I would too if I were them. But let's face it, financial advantage boosts the productivity of most -- that's most, not all -- married PhDs over single ones.

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde said...

Hope said...If you are able to be productive during a time when you are expected not to be (the reason you presumably stopped the tenure clock in the first place), then you should do the right thing and re-start the tenure clock.

This would only be a reasonable solution if one felt secure that the clock could then be re-stopped each time one's child comes down with an ear infection or the flu or whatever it might be that then causes you to lose work/sleep. But you can't do that (not to mention that would be a ridiculously high maintenance solution), so accepting a one-year clock stoppage as the best approximation of reality is the right thing to do.

And amen to all infants being different. The people who told me the baby would sleep better at 2 months/12 lbs are all very very hated right now, since instead he is sleeping worse. Again, the one year estimate will be high for some babies and low for others, but I really don't think we want the administrative bodies deciding on the "appropriate" clock stoppage for each and every baby.

Hope said...

@DJMH: I agree that we don’t want an outside body deciding what is appropriate time off the tenure clock for each person. That is why each individual needs to accept responsibility for his/her own situation and do the right thing. For example, if you stopped the clock but later find that your productivity was essentially unaffected, then go up for tenure a year early (i.e., when you would have gone up if you hadn’t stopped the clock.) But I don’t think many people can be counted upon to do this; I think a lot of people will just shrug it off and say, “hey, life is not fair” – an attitude that several commenters have already expressed.

And I hope that we can agree that clock stoppage is not meant to compensate parents for time taken to care for an ear infection or the flu. I always thought that the point of this policy was to give parents some breathing room during a time when caring for their child *significantly* disrupts their productivity. I think of it as akin to family medical leave – it’s a resource you use only when truly needed. That doesn’t appear to be what’s happened in the case of FSP’s friend.