Friday, January 07, 2011

Where the Clocks Never Stop

In the recent NY Times article on "Keeping Women in Science on a Tenure Track", already noted elsewhere in the blogosphere, part of a report (released last fall) by Berkeley researchers is summarized as follows:

"It recommends .. “stopping the clock” on tenure for women scientists who give birth, perhaps by giving an extra year before making tenure decisions, in effect giving them extra time to do research and publish."

Well, I guess we could discuss whether stopping the tenure clock gives women "extra" time or effectively gives them the same time as those who have not given birth or adopted a child during their tenure-track years, and I could also mention that clock-stoppage, where it exists, is also an option for men, but what I want to know is:

What North American universities do not yet have this policy?

Can anyone name names? Can we make a list? I think there should be a list, easily accessible by an internet search, of universities that do not provide for tenure clock-stoppage for the birth or adoption of a child. Does such a list exist? If not, let's start one here.

Are there many universities that don't allow tenure clock stoppage for birth/adoption of a child (or any other reason)? If it's only a few places, perhaps reports wouldn't keep calling for this as step to take to improve the disturbing statistics of the rates at which mother/professors receive tenure relative to father/professors.

I hope it is not a very long list, but even if it is, I'd like to take a stab at compiling at least some information; i.e., names of institutions that do not allow tenure-clock-stoppage. Even better would be a link to a list, if such a list already exists, but either way, it would be useful to get an idea about institutions (especially universities) that do not have such a policy.


Anonymous said...

There are several institutions where they do offer this option. However, it is an option, so women can choose not to stop the clock. This presents problems if the view on campus is that women are less rigorous than men if they choose to stop the clock. I have a colleague (at my institution) who had a child on the tenure track, but was informally advised that if they did not go up for tenure at the normal time, this would count against them. Once again, the vague, uncertain nature of tenure can be used to completely negate policies like this.

Female Postdoc said...

Wow. A list would be a GREAT idea?!

Tiger Mom PhD said...

As someone who wants to be a tenured professor and have more children, I am interested in the responses to this post. I am terrified that I won't be able to do it all, and I pray that the university that I do end up at is okay with "stopping the tenure clock" for the birth of a child. However, everyone has told me that if I want more kids I should have them before I graduate or have them after I get tenure (not really an option). I have read several blogs posts suggesting the same thing.

Female Science Professor said...

Stopping the tenure clock should be an option; then we need to work on the stopping incidents like the first Anon mentions. I did not want or need to stop my tenure clock when my daughter was born, but it's important that the option exist.

Tiger Mom -- It's possible to have kids when you are on the tenure-track and get tenure. This is not so unusual as it used to be. So now you can't say that "everyone" has told you that it's impossible!

Wendy said...

As the first comment points out, there is often a perception amongst faculty that stopping the clock is viewed as a weakness. Here I had to (1) know the option existed, (2) find the form (here at Mega University, that's no small feat), (3) inform my chair of the rule, the implications of the rule, and ask him to sign the form, and (4) stand over him to get him to sign the @#$%$ form after a few month's delay.

Three months after I went through that process, the university changed the rules such that tenure delays upon the birth of a child are automatic, and that parents can choose to go up for tenure then effectively early (as in, not taking that year). This circumvents all the hurdles I experienced.

Remaining serious issues remain in that P&T committees seem rather resistant to understanding the rule. My mid-tenure review was not handled appropriately (I was judged ok because I'd "made up for" the "lost" time by publishing a lot the following year). For my tenure review, I worked very hard to make sure that everyone in the room knew the rule: 6 years of work in 7 years time.

Female Science Professor said...

That's an important point and relates to what annoyed me about the NYT synopsis. It might sound paradoxical, but an "extra year" does not automatically equal "extra time".

So far no one has listed a university that does not allow for tenure clock stoppage, although some universities don't seem to be on board yet with making this option easily available and devoid of stigma.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised that that's what their findings are. I didn't take the year to stop the clock because we don't have a certain # of papers as a target like they do in some departments at some universities. For me, they're looking at per year productivity and evidence that the productivity will continue. Another year would not help with that at all.

What would have helped would have been a course reduction! Or you know, maternity leave of any sort. What did help was not having to do any service for a semester (another semester of no service would have helped even more). Though, come to think of it, they reneged on that too since I was on graduate admissions that year. (*end rant*)

My husband did take a year on his clock. That helps because we're not both going up the same year now.

Anyhow, moving the clock is a really cheap and easy thing for the department to do, so even my backwards university that doesn't mind women getting pregnant because they can't take a full semester off and can't take any time off for pay, does do that.

Anonymous said...

My school did not have the option until 2006.
I didn't need the extension, but I was more or less forced to take it as my chair "didn't want to take risks". (Read: I don't want to take the time to prepare your case right now)

Anonymous said...

What about "stopping the clock" for graduate students and postdocs who have children? These group really has very little effective protection against discrimination against parenthood. In many universities, they are considered "trainees" instead of "employees," which can limit their options in terms of getting help from internal sources (i.e. ombuds offices, HR, etc.) or external ones (i.e. as non-employees, they may not have grounds to sue). What should they do if having children delays their graduation and/or publication time in a way that affects funding, grades, or letters of recommendation?

Anonymous said...

I think technically my school (itty bitty state school in a state with a massive university system) has the option, but it is up to the department to grant the year. A pregnant colleague is afraid to ask for the year for reasons others have pointed out.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "stopping the clock" for postdocs, etc. as well. Many transitional (i.e., K99R00) postdoctoral fellowships state that you must be within x number of years of your PhD to be eligible to apply. There is no clear policy to request or receive an extension.

I think the list idea is a great one!

Anonymous said...

At a large state university, I did not exercise my tenure stop clock. In my opinion, this policy is only barely helpful: my competition kept rolling ahead and my students/postdocs continued to need advising while I was having a baby. Nothing really stops even if you take a "stop clock"... I found the policy for a semester off from teaching to be very, very helpful (and try not to be annoyed at my tenured male colleagues with stay at home spouses who also get a semester off when a child is born and take the opportunity to make extra research seminar trips/vacations).

Regarding graduate students and postdoc's: The elephant in the room is that I'm paying grad students/postdoc's in my group off of federal grant money. I also have to certify that they are working on research related to the grant. There is no provision in this setup to give paid maternity/paternity leave. This results in many ad hoc and questionable situations/solutions.

GMP said...

Tiger Mom PhD, it is absolutely possible to have a kid on TT and get tenure (I had my first one in grad school, the second one on TT). I had the paperwork for the clock stoppage but didn't use it (the department agreed I was ready in my 6th year and put me up at the regular time). I know women in other departments who had 1 or 2 kids on TT and variously used between 0 and 2 years of stoppage. I am quite happy that this seems to be an accepted practice at my university (it was already in place before I joined the university). The process is simple -- you just have to send an email noting you gave birth or adopted a child, and the approval is automatic.

Anon at 10:18 asked how the stoppage works for graduate students. I think the main problem is paying a student on federal grants, where time off is not allowed (at least the agencies I am familiar with). I would love it if federal grants allowed for a few months of paid family leave for students and postdocs -- this would solve a lot of problems. In the context of progress towards a PhD, a few months off shouldn't really be a problem in the grand scheme of things.

Anonymous said...

I like the list idea too. Maybe, though, since no one has suggested a place that doesn't offer stop-the-clock, it would be better to make a list of ones that *do* as well as a list of ones that don't. That way we know how many institutions have been considered.

Is there any hope for having kids while post-doc-ing? As far as I can tell all funding sources have a set amount of work in a set time, with little or no room for flexibility. For example, a post-doc friend of mine has won a prestigious national grant for new researchers that has to be used in 2011. But she will be giving birth in March. Her work is in a rural area of a developing country. She is having the baby in the U.S. for understandable reasons, so she will miss out on doing her work for a good chunk of the year. Her results will be much less than they would have been if she could extend the funding, which she finds really frustrating. And the less-than-expected results may hurt her when applying for tenure track positions.

I'm hoping to defend within a year or two and trying to figure out when to have kid #2...

Anonymous said...

At our U we do have clock stoppage. Also, soft money research scientists (a large, important, and arguably non-second class of people in a large lab we have in my field which exists as part of the U quasi-independently of any academic department) are allowed to go part-time for a year after having a kid if they wish. I believe this is the ONLY circumstance under which going part-time is allowed. (I.e., if one has only 6 mos. of funding in a year, one can't just choose to be paid half-time.)

Anonymous said...

Not all Clock-Extension policies are alike! Perhaps there should be a list of universities with policies that are problematic or ineffectual (or illegal)!

Faculty candidates looking at job offers should carefully evaluate the university's clock-extension policy for:

- are men included, and is it equal? (and do men feel they can exercise the option)

- can a father and mother both take the extension for the same kid?

- Is it an option, or is it an automatic extension which can be elected not to be used? (as the first commenter pointed out)

- How do you take advantage of it: do you have to ASK PERMISSION for it and get someone's signature, or do you simply ELECT TO DO IT? (This greatly impacts your conversation with your superiors.)

- Is your mid-review affected?

- Is there teaching/service release from teaching in the semester you give birth, and if so, do you have to make it up in some crazy way in the semester you return? (I know a university with such a policy, and it reads like a violation of FMLA.)

- Can you only get an extension if are able to activate an FMLA leave? (Thus, causing problems if you give birth during the summer and you have an academic appointment.)

- What happens if you extend your clock, but then choose to go up for tenure early? Are tenure criteria written such that this is not discussed at your review or held against/for you?

- Does the review committee detail your birth/extension in the letter they send for outside reviewers? Do you want them to?

And a final comment for Tiger Mom: Consider these things when you choose your job. Once you are there, have babies however you personally want to, enjoy it, and exercise your right to your own reproductive freedom and career choices! It is definitely possible.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Many transitional (i.e., K99R00) postdoctoral fellowships state that you must be within x number of years of your PhD to be eligible to apply. There is no clear policy to request or receive an extension.

Yes, there is.

The elephant in the room is that I'm paying grad students/postdoc's in my group off of federal grant money. I also have to certify that they are working on research related to the grant. There is no provision in this setup to give paid maternity/paternity leave.

Yes, there is.

mathgirl said...

I'm in Canada, where maternity leave is common if you have a "real job" including professor (but postdocs and grad students are not considered to have "real jobs").

I've started my TT position in University A. I gave birth to my son at the end of my second year there. I took 6 month of maternity leave which translated in no teaching/service (nice) and research each time I had a free minute (who in an academic career can afford to stop research for six months?). I became an expert in typing while breastfeeding, but I disgress...

Because I only took 6 months of maternity leave (and no the whole year as normal in Canada), University A did not stop the tenure clock (I had to sign a paper about this). Also, doing the actual paperwork was a little painful. Even though the rules were there, the staff members did not know how to help me because, you know "we've never had female professors having babies before".

End of third year (last june), I moved to University B, with a contract that says that they count my three year TT experience, but they let me defer for a year to go to tenure at the end of year 6 instead of year 5. No reasons written in the contract, but it's implied the delay is justified by my moving and me having to learn a new language and to teach in the new language all before going to tenure.

The current chair of my dept wants me to go to tenure at year 5. I'm still struggling with the new language (I've just started teaching using this language two days ago). The now toddler is totally gone from the discussions about any delay.

So, in conclusion: maybe having a baby while TT in not too bad, but moving to a different university after having said baby can be quite a problem!

Anonymous said...

No one else has done it yet, so I'll start. :D

According to the University of Houston promotion and tenure guidelines for 2010-2011, "An untenured tenure-track faculty member who becomes a parent due to the birth or adoption
of a child and who is responsible for the primary care of that child will be given upon request a
one year extension of the probationary period, with or without a leave of absence." You're supposed to notify your Chair in writing, who then informs you of your new tenure year and copies the Dean on it, who then informs the Provost. You can only get an extension twice (so 2 years total), and "Requests
for extensions of the probationary period normally will not be considered after March 1 of the
academic year prior to the tenure review period," so I guess you better plan accordingly. And if both parents are TT here, only one qualifies for the extension.

Also of note, we don't have paid maternity/paternity leave. This shocks me but doesn't seem to bother other folks, so I guess maybe that's common. You can do the FMLA stuff, of course, but that's unpaid. You'd need to run through all of your vacation and sick time if you want to get paid, and then fall back on short-term disability, which only covers a portion of your salary.

Also also, it appears that for the extension request, your adopted child can be under the age of six (biological children have to be newborns), but you can only get FMLA leave for adopted children under three. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

yes, CPP? care to elaborate with links? then your comment might actually be helpful to the poster.

When I last looked up the rules about NRSA's, I found a provision for a 4 week extension of the award. I can't remember whether it meant leave without pay + time extension, or time off. but I haven't looked at the info in a while.

But I agree that I'm not aware of any research university that doesn't have a clock stopping policy. I think the issues are details and implementation.

Tiger Mom PhD said...

Thanks everyone. It is good to know it is possible.

The fact is that it is taking longer to get my PhD because I had a child 1.5 years ago. But I've decided that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Just like I recently made the decision to spend some time with Little T on the weekends even if it means less time to do work on my dissertation. It might cost me 6 months but it's worth it. Luckily, I have this flexibility in my program.

I know we want another child in the next couple of years so whether I am starting a new job or finishing up my dissertation, I'm not sure. I could go on and on...maybe I need to reflect on this more...

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I am stunned and appalled that there are institutions that do not offer maternity/paternity leave. I would never consider working at such a place. I do with I lived in another country (other than the US) so that we had a more significant maternity leave, but I consider 12 weeks at a professional job to be a minimum.

AnonProfessor said...

OK, Comrade PhysioProf, I'd love to know more. What is the provision to give paid maternity/paternity leave to graduate students who are paid off of a federal grant? How does that work? Is there a limit on how many weeks/months one can support a student on paid leave for? Can you tell me more about what options are available, what's allowed, and how to make it happen?

Anonymous said...

Our policy on clock stoppage at an R1 state U. uses language that makes it pretty clear how use of the policy is viewed.
From the faculty handbook:
"Under extenuating circumstances, such as personal or family illness, or parental leave, a faculty member can request of the Provost and Executive Vice President that the tenure clock be extended."

Comrade PhysioProf said...

OK, Comrade PhysioProf, I'd love to know more.

Do I looke like motherfucken Google to you? Jeezus fucke.

Anonymous said...

Comrade Physio Prooooooooooof: Maybe it's because you have all those cute customized logos for every holiday, it makes you look like Google.

Anonymous said...

I know of no University where clock stoppage for mothers is not routine. But, I know of very few where it is commonplace for fathers. One of my former colleagues became the father of twins while untenured and the mom then spent about 5 months in the hospital. He managed to get his tenure clock stopped because he developed appendicitis but NOT because of his children!

After receiving tenure he did the sensible thing and left.

Anonymous said...

It's really interesting to read the responses here and see that so many instituions have unpaid parental leave for faculty let alone students and post-docs and yet the authors of the NYT article attribute loss of women to the lack of leave in these earlier stages. I'm curious how prevalent unpaid parental leave is for faculty. It is the policy at my institution and worse yet, you are required to use up your sick and vacation time before you're allowed to take unpaid leave and if your spouse also happens to work for any state agency, you must split your 12 weeks off, no matter how you take then off (sick, vacation, or unpaid). I'm learning there are other subtle rules in this policy that make it remarkably un-family-friendly. It certainly makes me rethink my employment here.

Anonymous said...

I am a male professor, and I took the clock stoppage. I can tell you when I was evaluated recently the committee basically counted the year of decreased productivity against me.

Anonymous said...

University of California has the same policy for men and for women. The only member of my department to stop the tenure clock was male. (Most of our faculty have children, but several had them before or after being an assistant prof. Others chose not to stop the tenure clock.)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

It's not just a matter of whether or not the clock is officially stopped; it's the unofficial clock that matters. To wit: a friend of mine in a history department at a second-tier research uni got her clock stopped for a semester... but then nearly missed getting tenure, even with a book in hand, because some in her department were grousing about why she hadn't produced *more* than required because, after all, she'd had an entire semester "off."

AnonProfessor said...

Do I looke like motherfucken Google to you? Jeezus fucke.

No, you looked like someone who might care about helping others in need.

Look. I consider your response offensive and uncalled-for. I made a good-faith request for more information that might help some female graduate students in my lab, and you tell me to fuck off? You should be ashamed.

For your information, yes, I have tried Google and found nothing.

Here is a case where spending a few seconds of your life to share your knowledge might make a large positive difference to many others. And I'm not the only one; apparently others were unaware of this as well, so you have a chance to benefit not just my own students, but those in other labs, too. But it's your life. If you don't have time to help out in that way, that's your call.

Alex said...

Let's put this in PhysioProf speech:

It would take 4 motherfuckin seconds to type "Check out NIH document such-and-such" or "Ask your program officer for the rules on a such-and-such type of exception." D00d, just type teh motherfucking search term for her!!!11!

GMP said...

AnonProfessor, don't take Comrade PhysioProf's off-color comments too personally. CPP's considerable wisdom is surpassed only by his assholishness.

Anonymous said...

I'm fairly certain there's no provision for stopping the clock in the state university system where I work. If there is, it's not mentioned in the basic information provided to new assistant professors, either P & T orientation or the written policy.

Female Science Professor said...

What is the state?

LE said...

My current institution offers (on paper) 6 weeks disability leave for women faculty. In practice, this is not always observed. There is also FMLA leave, but the restrictions on it are oppressive and I don't think many faculty take it. In practice, I notice that most maternity leaves are handled on a per-department basis and a more-or-less ad-hoc way.

Untenured faculty may *request* an unpaid leave of absence not later than October 1 of the prior year. If granted, this stops the tenure clock for one year, but it is also not paid. This is the only provision for clock stoppage in the faculty handbook.

Realistically, this means that pregnant women are very unlikely to get their tenure clock stopped because there is only a tiny window for conception if the baby is to be due after classes are out in May but the request for clock stoppage is due at the beginning of October. Not to mention that most families can't afford a one-year unpaid leave.

Policies like this are part of why I'm leaving this institution for a more modern one.

Female Science Professor said...

Are you willing to name the institution?