Chase Leisenring and Jamie Marshall
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate released a report Thursday about faculty parental policies to FAS professors, highlighting ambiguities within existent guidelines.
The senate, which voted to approve the dissemination of the report to all faculty members at its March 10 meeting, had turned its attention to the issue after senators discovered that junior faculty members are particularly concerned about issues with parental leave and support. According to history of science professor Bill Rankin, the lead author of the report, many junior faculty members raised issues with the tenure review and how parental leave can change work productivity expectations. Rankin said the report aims to clarify certain terms, refine policies and equalize the University’s support for faculty of all ranks and gender. Rankin said the situations some faculty members currently face do not correspond with the policies in place.
“A lot of the report tries to align the reality with the policy,” Rankin said. “We want to get away from an adversarial attitude toward parenting. We want faculty members who are parents to succeed at Yale.”
The report identifies several general flaws of current parental policies, including teaching relief, leave and tenure-clock extension. The report notes that some elements of existing policies contain “ambiguous wording” and that they afford different treatment to different ranks of faculty — ladder, non-ladder and research faculty.
Under the current policy, junior ladder faculty can suspend their tenure clocks for child-rearing purposes. However, Rankin said faculty members have been told that the pause in the tenure clock may raise expectations for their academic productivity during that year, which would run contrary to the aims of the policy. Because of this, Rankin added, some faculty members are reluctant to pause their tenure clocks.
In order to resolve the ambiguity about tenure review expectations, the report recommends that “the expectation among the faculty — not just the parents of young children, but also chairs, divisional committees … should match the policy.”
The Committee on Faculty Advancement, a subcommittee within the senate, was charged with writing the report, according to Beverly Gage ’94, senate chair and history director of undergraduate studies. This committee has been working on a variety of “faculty work-life issues,” and the parental policies report represents the first written piece of its work this academic year.
The report also puts forth 16 specific recommendations for changes. These cover five general issues: removing restrictions on eligibility for teaching relief or leave, clarifying tenure-clock extension policies, equalizing accommodations for teaching relief for all faculty, expanding leave for research faculty and addressing a range of special cases and issues.
Gage highlighted the confusion and ambiguity concerning tenure expectations for junior ladder faculty, who take parental leave, as a particular concern.
“In academia, there is a general timing problem,” she said. “The decade that faculty members have kids is also the time they are junior faculty and coming up for tenure. How individual faculty members and the institution manage this is a big issue.”
The report also recommends that teaching relief be considered an automatic eligibility for faculty for childbearing purposes in practice. It estimated the cost of replacing the teaching responsibilities of all faculty who are taking teaching relief as roughly $560,000 per year.
The report is one of three reports the senate has recently approved and distributed to the FAS. The two other reports concern the faculty standards of conduct and Yale College’s expansion. Gage said the parental report is more policy-specific than the two other reports, which tackle broad issues.
Rankin said that following the report’s distribution to the FAS body, the senate will look to follow up with appropriate administrators within the FAS Dean’s Office and the Provost’s Office.
“The report is hopefully the beginning of a conversation about the issue,” Gage said.