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Craig Kapitan , News Service (650) 724-5708;

Faculty Senate approves revised tenure clock extension

Faculty members who recently gave birth soon may not be the only ones allowed to extend their tenure clock by a year.

In its second meeting of Autumn Quarter, the Faculty Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to include adoptive parents and new fathers who endure "substantial and sustained child care responsibilities" to the list of those eligible for the extension.

"It's a great disruption to people's lives to have and raise a child," said Brad Efron, statistics, a member of last year's ad hoc committee that initially evaluated the idea. "It interferes with the orderly scholarly progression of things."

The current policy, which applies only to birth mothers, has been in place for three decades. If the changes are to be instituted next January, the Board of Trustees first must approve the revisions during its next meeting in December.

Under the revised Faculty Tenure Policy clause, new parents would be able to apply for the extension for up to one year after the birth or adoption of a child. In cases of adoption, the child usually must be no older than 5. Just as before, no more than three one-year extensions will be allowed, and the option will not be available during the last year of the tenure clock.

If the new policy is finalized by the trustees, there will be a transition period of one year during which any faculty member who became a parent while an assistant professor, and who is not yet in the final year of the tenure track, can apply for the extension.

"I think we all know that when women have kids, it slows down their research productivity, no matter how much help they get," said Joanne Martin of the Graduate School of Business. "And we're not going to see a change in that until male parents begin to take on more of the work.

"Increasingly slowly but increasingly [fathers] are doing that. And I think it's really important, it's symbolically crucial and it's practically important, that the university encourage and recognize this change on the part of the male faculty and makes the extension of the clock available. I think it's really crucial."

In the past, Martin said, she has heard two main arguments against making the policy more inclusive. One objection is that with so many men on the faculty, the system will be overwhelmed with requests. According to statistics from last academic year, there were 204 tenure-line, non-tenured male faculty members and 13 of those were new fathers. At the same time there were only 89 tenure-line, non-tenured female faculty members and two of those were eligible for the extension. The other argument is that there will be free riders "desperate assistant professors who will jump on this even though they haven't changed a diaper in their lives."

However, Martin discounts these trepidations.

"There are whole countries that have had federal policies about paternity leave," she said. "It's common practice in some of the finest universities in the country, and it's also common practice in corporations. In all three of those settings, what they've found is that this is a symbolic act. Very, very few men actually ask for paternity leave. And of those that dare do it, very few of them will be free riders."

Once the revised policy is instituted, Stanford will join schools such as Harvard, Princeton and the University of California in including fathers and adoptive parents.

Birth mothers still will be the only ones entitled to maternity leave. The Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Policies for New Parents also is discussing a teaching reduction policy.

Although unanimously supported, the move was greeted not without skepticism. Some asked where Stanford would draw the line. "I was thinking just now, if you could give me a little time for my dog, who is taking a lot of my time," joked Phyllis Gardner, molecular pharmacology and medicine. On a more serious note, faculty members wondered aloud how the university would apply the extension to situations such as a terminally ill child, parent care or spousal care.

"There are an enormous number of things that go wrong in life," Efron said, explaining that those issues must be explored one at a time. "This policy is specifically designed to consider birth of a child or the adoption of a child; not any other of life's perfectly awful disasters."


By Craig Kapitan

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