women hires

Karen Lona Allendoerfer ravena at alumni.princeton.edu
Sat Aug 29 12:02:08 EST 1998

 "Caroline J. Walker" <walkerc at CLEMSON.EDU> wrote:

>        In academics, departmental members are working more or less
>independantly - whether one faculty member recieves and NIH grant does not
>depend on how well a colleague performed on their NSF grant.  The
>connection between faculty is more fuzzy with good collegial input being
>vulauable, good teaching sometimes appreciated and an overall benefit by
>bringing good research into the Dept -

I had an interesting conversation with the CEO at the biotech company where
I'm going to be working soon.  He was in academia for many years before
taking a biotech position.  He said something quite similar to this, only
put it in starker terms:  in many academic departments, the junior faculty
are in competition with each other for lab space and tenure.   Since not
everyone will get tenure, if you engage in collaborative projects,
depending on how they turn out for you and your collaborator, the "help"
you give a fellow department member may mean that you're "helping" him or
her into tenure while helping yourself out of a job.  This meant, in
practical terms, that it was sometimes better to collaborate with someone
at another institution, rather than with your own colleagues in your own
department.  This seems to me, frankly, nuts.

> So perhaps
>what we need is to force more of a team like structure on academics?

I think that having a policy, which some schools *do* have, of not hiring
anyone that you don't plan to give tenure to (barring unforseen
circumstances, of course), would be a good start.  There are schools where
people are hired with a view to the long-term, and an assumption that if
the person does the work, jumps through the hoops, publishes, gets a grant
at some point, trains students, etc., s/he will get tenure.  And where the
expectations for tenure are made plain to the applicants when they are
hired, rather than after they've failed to meet them.  A school I know that
seemed to do this pretty well was a small liberal arts college where a
friend of mine worked.

Then there are the places that hire too many people to start with, throw
them in there together without any clear advice on expectations, other than
"work as hard as you can, bring in as much grant money as you can, and
publish as much as you can", and later keep who brings in the most grant
money and tell the others, "oh, sorry, it's just gotten so competitive
these days".  It seems possible that this sort of practice could be made
illegal:  count up available square feet of lab space, or courses to be
taught, or some minimal standard of work and resources that the department
actually needs and/or has.   And then let them hire only the number who are
needed, and no more.  It could also be legally required of departments to
make their expectations for tenure clear, in writing, to new hires as soon
as they start.  


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