criteria for tenure summary

nishir at nishir at
Thu Aug 26 15:45:25 EST 1993

Hi Netters interested in Women's Issues...
The following is a summary of responses I received about criteria for
promotion.  The first is my original posting.  Comments from various
participants follows.  At the end I give my current assessment of the
situation....Rae Nishi Assoc. Prof. Cell Biology & Anatomy OHSU Portland OR

The following question has come up in discussions here, and I would like to
have input from the rest of you out there. It came up in the context of
affirmative action for women (getting more women into higher positions, but it
could apply as well to men who choose to take a greater burden in raising
children/ sharing domestic responsibilities with their spouse). 

Should time taken out to raise a child/ family be factored into promotion
decisions?  That is, I'm sure that many of you are well aware, if you choose to
have a family, your time at work as a scientist becomes quite limited by the
demands of your family.  First, you have to take time off to give birth and
care for a newborn.  Then, your time at work becomes limited to daycare hours.
If your child is in school, then summers and holidays may become very limited
in terms of research hours.

Should we give a "break" to people who have chosen to have families?  Should
quality of output be emphasized to a greater extent for these than quantity?
Should it be possible for to extend the evaluation time (time to
tenure/promotion) if you've got a family?  What is fair?

<from Dean Lee Microbiology Dept. LLU mbidle at lluvm.bitnet>
The July 26 issue of The Scientist has an intriguing review of a recently
published paper (Social Forces 71(1):159-78) which has some bearing on the
recent discussion of whether promotion/advancement committees should look at
quality vs quantity of publications, and also sheds some light on the recent
complaints about women not posting often enough on the Internet.  This paper
analyzed the publication and citation records of 550 men and 600 women who got
their PhD degrees between 1950 and 1963 (i.e., overall careers of current
"senior" investigators).  It seems that in the beginning of their carreers, men
and women publish approximately the same number of papers, but by the 15th or
20th year of their carreers, men publish about 60% more articles per year than
the women.  The great finding of this paper, though, is that they find that the
in number of citations, there is less that a 5% difference between men and
women, despite the difference in number of papers.  This seems to *strongly*
suggest that women are much better able to wait and publish meaningful papers
from their data, rather than dissecting their work into peices of 1 MPU each
(Minimum Publishible Unit) in an effort to have the longest publication list
possible when tenure comes up.  I would venture to guess that the same
principle applies to the Internet...

<from Steve nmodena at>
When conscription was the order of the day, giving a "break" to veterans was
intended to compensate for *involuntary* servitude.

For example, when a MALE was ORDERED by his local draft board to report for
death defying duty in combat in WWII or Korea or Viet-Nam, compensational
amends were made in some government jobs (such as becoming a POSTAL WORKER) by
adding POINTS to a qualifying exam score.  

If we instituted conscription for females-only to serve in female-only military
commands, then giving a "break" to female veterans returning to *research*
careers would have adequate historical precedent.  (At peak, 525,000 American
males were stationed in let's get 525,000 *females* stationed in
Bosnia for 7-t0-10 years and see for real what
equality-of-opportunity-and-outcomes really puts a millstone around the neck of
dreams for a better life.)

On the other hand, modern females may regard having a family as involuntary
servitude, similar to calling in artillary on one's own overrun postion
(thinking of a friend's comments over the weekend).

One of the social lessons learned in the Viet-Nam era was that over-educated
people over-value themselves to the point of *always* preferring to let someone
else do the dirty work while *they* climb the Ivy Tower.

<The following posting was from Laura Simms Re: affirmative action; time off
for family leave, but I thought some portions were particularly relevant to
this discussion.  I have only printed the relevant portions.  My apologies to
Laura if she feels that the remarks are out of context...>

Family leave:      This is a difficult issue since it pits those in charge (who
want high productivity) against the employees (who may want more out of their
lives than just high productivity for their boss).  It is not just an issue of
who does the child bearing and child rearing, but of whether we all want to
live in a system where _nothing_ outside of our profession is important. 
Obviously, the managerial types will tend to hire those with no family
responsibility, no hobbies, etc, who will devote themselves exclusively to the
job.  Now that hiring in academic positions has become so competitive, it is
difficult for anyone to have much of an outside life if they want to stay on
the tenure track. This makes it difficult for those who want to have more in
their lives, but are still devoted to doing good quality work during work
hours.  There is getting to be no place for them to go.

<from Jim Hutchins>
First of all, to establish my credentials, I do not have children, and my wife
and I cannot have children, so I hope that would eliminate anyone thinking this
is a self-serving answer.

Yes, family should be taken into consideration, as should any other individual
factors which might arise.  The Promotion and Tenure Committee does not really
have that many people to look at in a given year (cf. Medical School
Admissions), so I'm uncomfortable with the idea of 'quotas'.  Why can't each of
us be considered as individuals?  Yet, I know that I must have 20 papers to be
considered for promotion.  Not 18 good papers, or 30 lousy ones, but 20.  How
stupid.  No one seems to want to take responsibility for decisions any longer;
P&T committees have abdicated their jobs and given their work over to study
sections and the editorial boards of journals.

So, in brief, I believe that consideration *should* be given to family
responsibilities, taking a year off to work in a homeless shelter, or anything
else that might arise in the individual's life that would make the committee
see them as an _individual_.

Disclaimer: I come up this year, so don't anyone tell the P&T committee here
what I just said :-).

<from Kay Klier  Biology Dept  UNI>
Some desultory discussion has been occurring at UNI about "stopping the tenure
clock" for anyone (male or female) who is a primary caregiver... and that
includes those of us who take care of parents instead of kids.

Interesting (and potentially non-sexist) idea.  Hasn't gone anywhere yet.

Last comments:  The context of this discussion was to try to institute a means
whereby the "leaky pipeline" of women in science was plugged up...that is, even
though the number of trainees for PhD start at equal male-to-female ratios, the
percentage of women in science drops as you climb up the academic level, such
that by the time you reach associate professor <20% are women, and <10% are
women at full professor.  One perception as to what causes this "leaky
pipeline" is the observation that since many women are saddled with the greater
responsibility of child and home care, they "voluntarily" drop out of demanding
tenure-track positions in favor of "soft money" positions or dropping entirely
out of science.  Unfortunately, simply creating "special consideration" for
women with children/family etc has the danger of creating unfair and unequal
circumstances under which individuals would be evaluated for tenure (who's to
say whether having a child is more stressful than serious health problems?  why
should married women with children be given an advantage over single women or
over men with children?).  I personally favor allowing more time before one
comes up for tenure for everyone, and emphasizing quality over quantity (eg.,
some schools ask individuals coming up for tenure what they feel their 10 best
publications are, and elicit outside letters evaluating the work in those
publications instead of counting gross numbers of pubs).

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