Tenure & Pipeline (long)

Deborah A. Cook dcook at CAU.EDU
Fri Jan 10 16:41:07 EST 1997


One of the underlying problems of the tenure/pipeline, career/family,
and  that of one's potential issues that many posters have skirted a bit
is that of expectations.  What do others (administrators, senior
faculty, PIs, committee members, family etc.) expect of you and what do
you expect of yourself in terms of a scientific career?

As women scientists we have to deal with mixed messages about
expectations since it falls to us much of the time to consider the
effects of those expectations in the context of balancing career/family
issues.   Since I also have a biologist for a spouse, it's absolutely
true in my personal experience that men are less concerned with the
expectations of others in terms of family/career issues and are more
willing to compromise that area of their lives than women.

I think it is especially critical for young faculty to get as clear a
picture as possible from administrators what's are expected of them to
attain tenure.  If that means pinning them down on numbers of
publications, grants (types and $$), and other activities, then do so. 
The difficulty is that getting tenure is such a subjective process, it
is almost immpossible to get any idea of what they really want.  This is
difficult enough in the sciences (is the organic chemist with 20
publications more deserving of tenure than the molecular biologist who
only has 3?), but how does a PT & E committee evaluate individuals from
the sciences and the humanities?  It comes down to what the department
or division recommends, but disagreements still occur and decisions can
be overturned at upper levels.

I would caution young faculty at predominantly teaching institutions (I
know, I was one of them once) that this is even more critical for them. 
How many ads from such places have I seen in recent years that state
that "the candidate should develop a vigorous extramurally funded
research program that involves undergraduates."  Expectations of
administrators at such places are often unrealistic.  Many of these
places want to be like Level I Research Universities, but they don't
have the resources to invest in young faculty, so you are left on your
own to get them (I speak from experience), and it can turn into a
vicious cycle of not getting funding because you've been teaching so
much your publication record is not what it should be.  

I have tenure, but am still an Assistant Prof. because of expectations
of administrators and the lack of university resources for young
faculty.  Yet, I believe I've been very successful as a women scientist
who is also somebody's wife and somebody's mom, given the awful
circumstances I've dealt with and continue to deal with.  So, I'm not
exactly sympathetic to the woman scientist who ends up taking the lesser
position in deference to a spouse or because of family/career conflicts.

What are your expectations?  What kind of a scientific career do you
want?  What compromises and sacrifices are you prepared to make to have
the kind of career you want?  Adjust your expectations, make those
decisons and get on with your life and career.  Nobody said life in
academic science was going to be easy.  Nobody said we can have it all.
There are days I consider getting out of research altogether and devote
myself totally to teaching, but I can't just do that because somewhere
down the line I still believe I can make a contribution and besides the
research keeps me alive intellectually.  Judging what individual
students tell me from time to time, I know that through teaching I've
made significant contributions.  Yet, there are days I'm ready to
resign, but I'm not ready to let the b******* win the game.

Deb Cook
Who's crabby about her class size jumping from 50 to 80.



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