Monday, July 27, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Freaking out

I just received a report from a committee making recommendations to the Provost of the university regarding budget cuts.

This paragraph caught my eye:

A number of areas of the Teaching Resources Center should be examined for possible reduction. These include support for faculty teaching, the Scantron service for course evaluations (eliminate with on-line evaluations), the mini-grant program and the SPEAK test (should be able to use results of new TOEFL in its place). Some consideration should be given to better coordinate (or centralize) TA orientation and training. Some units provide their own while others rely on the TRC, resulting in duplication of effort. Decisions could be informed by existing qualitative evaluation data of the various programs. The additional review could be conducted jointly by representatives of the Undergraduate Council and the Graduate Council.

First of all, "support for faculty teaching" is what we do, and encompasses all of my position, plus that of 1 and 4/7 of my colleagues. The only cost for many of our faculty support programs are salaries, so to cut those programs means cutting personnel.

Second, departmental TA training and our TA orientation are very different. Many departments don't have TA training, so the only training many TAs get is our seven hours at the very beginning of their grad school careers. In addition, we orient 700 TAs in the fall for the cost of only salaries, photocopying, and nametags. So again: Cutting TA orientation would mean cutting personnel time.

Third, I'm no fan of Scantron machines, but the return rate of online course evaluations is very, very low, and online exams don't yet have the enough security against cheating to persuade faculty to adopt them.

I'm furious and frightened. Maybe I'm overreacting upon the first reading of this report. Let's hope so.

By the way, the same report counsels the Provost not to cut athletics too deeply, as sports programs would feel the effect for many years. (Apparently the quality of teaching wouldn't suffer at all. GAH.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

On destuckifying

"Destuckification" is a term Havi Brooks uses to describe the process of moving beyond harmful patterns and hurt:

Destuckification is about the willingness to meet yourself where you are.

Even if where you are in that moment is not being able to get out of bed and do the thing already.

Even if where you are in that moment is not being able to sit with it.

Even if where you are in that moment is not being able to thank your pain for being there to teach you.

And if you can’t meet yourself where you are yet?

You recognize (or remind yourself) that this is okay too. That you’re practicing. That you are allowed to hate it. That you can take your time getting to the point where you’ll be able to implement some concept that you’ve learned.

Havi's recent post "Destuckifying a Hurt" provides seven initial steps for beginning to move through and past hurt.

A lot of people are hurting a lot more deeply than I am, of course, but I'm finding the method enlightening for working through my own issues with having a Ph.D. in the humanities and not being on the tenure track. (Because my readers know that earning a Ph.D. in the humanities and not landing a t-t job = FAILURE. I know this because Ph.D. students in many programs aren't trained to do anything but assume a t-t position and because waaaaay too many of my friends have been asked by senior faculty "Why are you getting a Ph.D. if you're not planning to teach?")

Even though I turned in my dissertation almost three years ago, and even though my t-t job market failures are a couple years behind me, I find I'm still holding on to that person I was supposed to be, the lit-savvy, slender American studies professor who is finishing her first book in the office of her affordable early 20th-century home in a charming small town anchored by an elite liberal arts college.

Um, yeah. Her.

Instead, I'm inhabiting a parallel universe, one where I counsel folks on teaching, teach regularly but not exclusively, and am subject to the whims of the California state budget and the UC bureaucracy. I like my work an awful lot, but I'm still plagued by the feeling that it's not quite what I'm supposed to be doing--as if I'm either supposed to be running a teaching center elsewhere or I'm supposed to stay in this lovely town but do something else.

So I'm destuckifying. Have been for some time, I know--evidence all my casting about for jobs and careers--but now I'm going to be more deliberate about it. I need to massage all the muscles knotted up to protect an old injury, then stretch them and get them used to new kinds of exercise.

Accordingly, I'm slowing down again, letting myself work more thoughtfully through the first three steps of Havi's:

1. You give yourself permission to be hurt.

You just stop and acknowledge what a hard thing this is — and you remind yourself that it’s natural and normal that this would hurt so much.

This is the most important step. And it’s hard.

So if you can’t give this situation permission to just be awful, that’s completely understandable. If you’re not there yet, that’s okay.

Maybe you can start with trying to giving yourself permission to not be able to let it be awful, and see if that starts to loosen things up a little.

2. Acknowledge how big it is.

It’s really easy (and tempting) to go straight into “I should really be over this already” and “why is this still such a big issue?”

Not so helpful.

It is a big deal. It is your big hurt.

So remind yourself:

“Even though I really just want to be over this already, I’m taking a moment to notice how much pain and grief I have from this hurt. No wonder I’m having trouble with this. There is a lot here.”

3. Notice things.

You’re going for mindful, compassionate noticing as opposed to noticing-and-making-judgments or just observing.

Definitely check out her post and blog if you've been working through something for a while but find yourself stuck.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Faculty self-interest trumps collegiality at the University of California

(Cross-posted at BlogHer)

In a letter that has made jaws drop throughout the University of California system and in colleges and universities around the country, a group of 23 University of California, San Diego department chairs have called on the UC to--among other things--sacrifice campuses, specifically UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Riverside, that value teaching as well as research. Wesleyan University Professor Claire Potter puts it best, I think, in her interpretation of the letter in her post "Sincerely Yours, The Department of Miserable Bastards,":

To put it in plain English for those of you who do not teach at a prestigious flagship, some people (you, for example) suck, other people (they) don't; hence, it can be determined some faculty have value and others do not. From this we can derive that some faculty are endlessly exploitable and/or can be discarded without any real harm coming to anyone important, such as students.

You are so right, Professor Scull, and I think you should just march right up to [UC Santa Cruz Professor and activist] Angela Davis and her [History of Consciousness] friends and tell them that to their faces. The one bright spot in this budget crisis, it seems, is that we can take the gloves off and be honest with each other about how we really feel. But I do want to say -- that was one heck of a run-on sentence, and before you row away in your little lifeboat, leaving the rest of the system to paddle around on whatever floats, you might want to get the Chair of the English Department on board.

The letter, which really you must read, was authored by UCSD sociologist Andrew Scull, who--I kid you not--researches the sociology of lunacy and megalomania. (Talk about lack of self-awareness.) Proving that sociologists just don't get, well, social interaction, the UC Los Angeles sociology department has joined in with its own letter, which, like Scull's, calls on the Regents and President of the UC to cut back on programs (or perhaps closely entirely) the three campuses Scull mentions in favor of campuses like UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego. (Which leaves some campuses--like, oh, mine in Davis--in some kind of limbo, I suppose, limping along on life support as it struggles to develop technologies to, you know, feed the world and remediate environmental disasters in the making.)

Danielle Gaines cites a statement University of California President Mark Yudof made to the Merced Sun-Star:

"I am 100 percent behind Merced, Riverside and Santa Cruz, and do not see the call to reduce expenditures on those campuses, beyond their proportionate share of the systemwide deficit, as a solution to our budgetary ills."

For more discussion of Scull's letter and the respective UC campuses, see Margaret Soltan's post at University Diaries and the comments on it.

The truth is, all campuses have something to contribute as teaching and research institutions, and cuts should be distributed proportionately across them. Merced's budget is tiny compared to UCLA's, just as my salary as a UC staff member is small compared to a department chair's at UCSD or UCLA. And just as the furloughs and pay cuts are being distributed on a sliding scale, with lesser-paid administrative staff losing a smaller percentage of their salary (say, 4% to 6%) than better-paid faculty (7% to 10%), the larger campuses should have more cushion in their budgets to take a bigger hit during a financial crisis affecting the entire system.

There are also issues of equity to California's growing populations of young people of color, who are tragically underrepresented at the University of California. Writing in La Prensa San Diego, Jorge Mariscal upbraids Scul for wanting to close those campuses that have the highest enrollment of underrepresented students:

As the privatization of the UC continues (UCSD, for example, is a public university in name only with only 6% of its budget coming from the state), more out-of-state and international students will be admitted. This has been a shift desired by some for several years now. The mission of the UC that says we should be serving the people of California is sacrificed on the altar of revenue flow.

UCSD then becomes a finishing school for out-of-state students from rich families and affluent foreigners. The University of Michigan, now almost fully privatized and being talked about as a model for the new UC, currently enrolls more international students than Mexican American students.

Once the three “elite” UC campuses make the transition to being in essence private schools, working class and minority students will slowly disappear from their classrooms. Again, this is already happening due to increased tuition (which Scull supports) and enrollment caps. But if UC were to adopt Scull’s plan and wipe out the campuses with the most underrepresented students—Riverside and Merced—you accelerate the process.

Throw in the California State University system and the California Community College system, both of which are underfunded, and the picture of higher education in the state becomes even more complicated, particularly as regards working-class students, non-traditional (e.g. older) students, and students of color. Asking to be removed from the cuts because the academic research you do is somehow more important than the work being done elsewhere to educate first-generation college students is just arrogant.

Where is Clark Kerr when we need him?

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Will breast cancer gene lawsuit end gene patenting?

(An earlier version of this was posted at BlogHer)

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union joined the Association for Molecular Pathology, the American College of Medical Genetics, the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and numerous other plaintiffs--including individual breast cancer patients--in filing a lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, the U.S. Patent Office, and the directors of the University of Utah Research Foundation. Myriad Genetics has patents in the U.S. for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, the presence of which has been linked to an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. The suit alleges that such gene patenting is unconstitutional, in large part because "ease of access to genomic discoveries is crucial if basic research is to be expeditiously translated into clinical laboratory tests that benefit patients in the emerging era of personalized and predictive medicine," and such patents restrict the use of the genes.

The ACLU suit points out that

Because of the patents, defendant Myriad has the right to prevent clinicians form independently looking at or interpreting a person's BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to determine if the person is at a higher risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Because of the patents and because Myriad chooses not to license the patents broadly, women who fear they may be at an increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer are barred from having anyone look at their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes or interpret them except for the patent holder. [...] Many women at risk cannot even be tested because they are uninsured and/or cannot afford the test offered by Myriad.

The suit gives several examples of ways that some of the plaintiffs have been put in jeopardy by the patent. Particularly upsetting to me was this anecdote:

Plaintiff Lisbeth Ceriani is a 43-year-old single mother who was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts in May 2008. Ms. Ceriani is insured through MassHealth, a Medicaid insurance program for low-income people. Her oncologist and genetic counselor recommended that she obtain BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing, because she may need to consider further surgery in order to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer. They submitted a blood sample to Myriad on her behalf. However, she was notified that Myriad would not process the sample. Even though her insurance has informed her that it would cover the BRCA genetic test, Myriad will not accept the MassHealth coverage. Ms. Ceriani is unable to pay the full cost out-of-pocket and, to date, has not been tested. Without the genetic test results, she cannot determine the best medical course for herself.

What the hey?

Women bloggers have latched onto the story like metastases to lymph nodes.

In her article "Enough with Patenting the Breast Cancer Gene," Rebecca Skloot (of the blog Culture Dish) writes of the literal cost of patenting to scientists and patients.

In a survey done a few years ago, 53 percent of laboratories had stopped offering or developing a genetic test because of patent enforcement, and 67 percent felt patents interfered with medical research. It costs $25,000 for an academic institution to license the gene for researching a common blood disorder, hereditary haemochromatosis, and up to $250,000 to license the same gene for commercial testing. At that rate, it would cost anywhere from $46.4 million (for academic institutions) to $464 million (for commercial labs) to test a person for all currently-known genetic diseases.

Click through to Skloot's article to learn more about the history of patenting genes--and why it's possible to patent genes at all in the first place.

Over at the Huffington Post, Joanna Rudnick, who has tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation, shares a video interview with Dr. Mark Skolnick, the founder and chief scientific officer of Myriad. Rudnick writes that "the lab was beautiful and state of the art, but Skolnick's answers surrounding the ethics and detrimental consequences of gene patenting were unsatisfying, leaving more questions than answers and leading to where we are now with the ACLU challenge."

Stephanie Anderson, writing on an intellectual property blog, explains the key issues in the case:

What seems to be the main issue is not that patents should be unavailable whenever genetic sequences are at issue, but that the USPTO’s policies and understanding of biotechnology and science has not kept up with the pace of the industry itself. I coincidentally worked in a genetics laboratory for several years some time after seeing the documentary about BRCA1 and 2. Like my initial very strong pro-patent beliefs when I was involved in research, part of the problem with many patents is their overly broad nature. As the root of more and more diseases is being attributed to mutations within our genetic code, gene patents run the risk of limiting research if a disease is known to be caused by a genetic mutation. If gene patents are defined too broadly, patent holders theoretically could prevent research on proteins produced in the body associated with a disease because the proteins were encoded by genes. As has been stated by bioethics experts, patents are a privilege, not a right. Unless the USPTO steps in and clearly identifies what exactly is being patented so to limit patent protection appropriately, research will undoubtedly be stifled to some extent.

Will the lawsuit succeed? Arthur Caplan, director of the Center of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks Myriad will prevail. He explains why the law may in this case be on the side of the patent holder and not the patients--even though it doesn't necessarily make ethical sense:

The notion that patents interfere with free speech by restricting research communication presumes that the constitution recognizes research as a form of free speech and that Myriad has done anything to block researchers from speaking and those are pretty iffy presumptions.

Tossing out the Myriad patents would indeed imperil thousands of other patents, and courts tend not to want to cause that much turmoil.

That forecast offered, those bringing the lawsuit have an important point. Patent offices and courts in the U.S. and other countries have been granting patents on genes without thinking hard enough about the social and health implications of doing so. If companies sit on their patents and restrict licensing, gouge consumers, or fail to develop their patents by improving their tests or therapies then government should step in and yank the patent.

Patents are not given for any reason other than to encourage innovation which advances the public good. They are a privilege — not a right.

What are your thoughts?

Scientists and Motherhood

(Another older post from BlogHer)

Any job can be complicated by pregnancy or motherhood, but scientific careers may be in their own special category. Depending on the field, you've got exposure to toxic chemicals, radiation, or all manner of microorganisms in the lab; the multitudinous dangers of field work; and the odd and sometimes exceptionally hours required of some experiments or observations in the lab and field.

Many science bloggers reflect regularly on what it means to be a mother and a scientist. I wanted to share some of their posts here, as even those of us who are not scientists in any conventional sense can learn from their experiences.

drdrA writes about family-friendly labs--meaning labs that are supportive of men and women who are parents. drdrA believes her own lab is family friendly, but she wonders how that policy will affect her chances of gaining tenure:

I was having a conversation with some science friends recently- about this crossroads of 1. maternity ‘down time’ = lost productivity for 3 month stretches with 2. labs with reputations for family friendliness. See, those labs with reputations for family friendliness – end up having way way more downtime, than those labs that don’t,….. because the ‘family friendly’ labs end up having whole runs of employees on maternity leave. In three month blocks. Take my own lab for example- let’s just say I’ve had a lab for 5 years (now I’m just making shit up)- and I’ve had 4 employees out on maternity leave… for three months each-… that’s an entire productive person year gone… during the most critical (pre-tenure) time of my career.

And that’s just for the maternity leave itself. When my younger daughter was born- she was ill for about the first year of her life. I slept at my desk, took her to the doctor, and wandered through my project, as only a person enduring a solid year of complete sleeplessness could. Poorly. I use this to illustrate that when your lab members become parents and the maternity leave is over, it may be back to business as usual- but ‘business as usual’ after the baby may be dramatically different than ‘business as usual’ AFTER the baby…and changes in productivity can stretch on beyond maternity leave. These changes in productivity are compounded in ‘family friendly’ labs that carry the weight for the rest of academic science.

The Urban Scientist points us to an article in Scientific American that in turn points us to a study by the NSF that suggests some reasons why more women aren't tenured science professors. The study looks at tenure-eligible women scientists in six disciplines in major research universities. Oddly, the report does not address (and states as much) what may be some of the biggest challenges to women's success in the sciences, namely "the constraints of dual careers [and] access to quality child care[...] In particular, the report does not explore the impact of children and family obligations (including elder care) on women's willingness to pursue faculty positions in R1 institutions."

Dr. Isis writes a thoughtful response to a letter from a postdoc who wonders how many children she should have. Here's an excerpt from her response regarding scientists and babies:

Now, to address something that is unique to this question, do people with advanced degrees have the responsibility to have more babies to destupify the human race? I sincerely hope not. If that were the case, Isis the Scientist might not be here. Neither of my parents have a degree, let alone an advanced degree. I was raised, in part, during my teenage years by two wonderful non-English speaking family members who never went to college and worked as laborers. My uncles are still laborers. But, my brother and I went to college because my family told us that an education was important. Not because they already had advanced degrees. I'm not so sure brilliance always begets brilliance. Trust me. I've met some pretty stupid scientists.

I mean, can we all just agree on the complete wackaloonery of the idea that PhDs and MDs have a responsibility to spawn more? Do I need to adress it further? Frankly, mama's tired and I want to get to the important part of the question.

Nicky at Grad Ovaries also blogs regularly about pursuing science and motherhood simultaneously. From a recent post:

And you know, I get that the world doesn't revolve around me, and having a baby is a choice that I made and I can't expect everyone to make lots of allowances just for me. But at the same time, I also believe that having a baby is a normal part of life, that it's the price you pay for employing human beings. And I'm also angry, because in my particular field, students take leaves of absence ALL THE TIME for other personal purposes, like starting a company or working somewhere for a year or traveling the world, and nobody blinks when they interrupt things to leave for several months and then come back and spend two months talking about it, before finally getting back to work. My leaving to have a baby isn't all that different, except that yes, I continue to take care of the baby even after I returned to work. But AdvisorA never had children, and just kept making side remarks about women and choices and careers and being taken seriously. And it pisses me off.

Last but not least, Pat of Fairer Science points us to a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Family-Friendly Policies May Not Help as Much as They Should, Conference Speaker Says." The article cites Karen R. Stubaus, director of Rutgers Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, who suggests that family-friendly policies like being able to slow down the tenure clock after having a baby means women's careers proceed at a slower pace, which in turn delays salary increases and promotions. Comments Pat,

I would call this a dirty, little secret but while it's dirty, it's not little and neither is it a secret. The idea that in some institutions women are punished for choosing to follow institutionally approved policies stinks. Dr. Stubaus may be right that "the environment isn’t what it needs to be for female academics to seek the relief family-friendly policies offer;" but isn't that what Offices of Institutional Diversity and Equity are supposed to change? If rather than fixing the problems, we discourage women from taking advantage of family friendly polices, for their own good, then the environment will never be what it needs to be.

What are your thoughts? What are the challenges motherhood presents in your own field of work or study?

Should students feel the brunt of university budget cuts?

(Another post from recent weeks at BlogHer)

I opened my local newspaper this morning to find local faculty griping about how any cuts to their salaries should be reflected in reduced time spent in the classroom. The article quotes Professor Keith Watenpaugh of the University of California, Davis religious studies department:

"Furloughs in which faculty aren't teaching, offices are closed, labs are closed down, the library doors are barred … I think the people of the state will understand better what's at stake with this chronic underfunding of the UC system," Watenpaugh said.

"If we're going to have a pay cut, there should be a commensurate cut in what we have to do in teaching. No one wants to shortchange the students, … but the pain, we're all feeling it and it needs to be shared."

Some students said they're already feeling the pain, thank you. They don't want to lose class time so professors can make a political point.

"We're already feeling the budget cuts as students – they're cutting our programs and raising our fees," said Justin Patrizio, 21, a political science major who is active in student government.

"To request that the furloughs negatively affect student life is a little bit inconsistent with the goal of the university."

Again and again when I speak with faculty, the first thing they talk about cutting is their teaching. When really, if their duties reflect the traditional breakdown of 1/3 teaching, 1/3 research, and 1/3 service to the university and community, then only one-third of the proposed cut to their time should come from their teaching--which means about 2.5% of their time each month, if UC Davis salaries are slashed by the promised 8 percent.

Yes, students should be made aware of the budget cuts, which means, as Watenpaugh also suggests in the article, that the library should be closed along with other amenities. But I'm tired of hearing how students need to bear the burden of the cuts, especially since students are now paying higher tuition and are finding it harder to secure financial aid.

On the one hand, faculty are talking about cutting classroom time because it's a good rhetorical strategy: these cuts will affect students, they're reminding the administration and the public. But as Squadratomagico comments on a post at Historiann, that strategy may backfire:

The suggestions about trying to bring home to students and the general public that less pay means less work is a reasonable one, and it was my own inclination when talks about pay cuts started on my campus. But, a colleague brought up what I thought was an interesting word of caution. She noted that the general public already looks at us as having three months off (or of glamorous travel) in the summer, long vacations during the year, and perhaps 20-25 hours in the classroom the rest of the year. They tend to discount class prep, grading, research and all the other multitude of things we do aside from the hours in the classroom. And this colleague suggested, quite correctly, I think, that reacting with too much indignation will only backfire, as most of the public already thinks that academics do far too little work. Such responses will be seen as borne of massive entitlement.

While I think it is important not to keep pay cuts and other hardships completely invisible to the public, I think the way this gets communicated is important. Outrage will only generate hostility, because everyone is hurting. I know about 4 people who have lost their jobs outright: if I were to complain of my losses to them, they would rightly feel impatient. Students themselves are only too well aware of the economy. Here at OPU, not only are we expecting significant pay cuts, but tuition is going up quite a bit for them as well. I suspect this is the case for many unis.

Definitely check out Historiann's post for an interesting discussion in the comments.

Additional engaging discussion of infuriating circumstances is taking place in the comments at Confessions of a Community College Dean and at The Adventures of Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar, who laments,

Well, it seems that Urban University may be headed towards furloughs for TT faculty. And they tell us it´s not a pay cut, but two unpaid days a month (where we´re not supposed to work -- yeah, right) comes out to 6% of our work days, which means that my tenure raise is effectively wiped out before I ever see it.

Roxie Smith saw this coming, and back in December asked why there was an auto industry bailout but not a similar plan for higher education. After all, the amount of money some research universities get from the state is a very small slice of their budgetary pie--these universities might as well be considered private nonprofit institutions instead of governmental ones.

In an important post written some months ago, Tenured Radical asks faculty to reflect on some of the assumptions underlying their belief that pay cuts are particularly unjust for the professoriate. Among the questions she asks and answers is this one:

Isn't letting the administration get away with a salary freeze just lying down and letting them walk all over us? No, keeping your trap shut, repressing your anger at how you are treated, not disagreeing with anyone who might ever vote on your promotion, and never saying or writing anything you believe until you have a tenure letter in your pocket is letting people walk all over you. Agreeing to a salary freeze, when it is explained as part of a well-reasoned plan is sticking out your hand and playing your role as a partner in the enterprise.

The strangest thing I have heard -- and I have heard it from more than one person -- is the narrative of sacrifice, in which a faculty member claims to have chosen university teaching when other, far more lucrative work was possible, but in an act of self-abnegation chose to teach the unwashed masses who seem to cluster regularly at private colleges and universities. Having made this sacrifice, the story goes, no others should be required: nay, this person should receive raises while others near and far, working class and middle class people working in soulless occupations, lose their jobs.

Amen, and thank you.

Of course, Dr. Crazy offers one of her typically well-reasoned rebuttals to my assertion that faculty should not immediately cut their teaching when they take pay cuts or furloughs:

When budgets are flush, it's possible to get release time from teaching in order to perform in other (required) areas of the job. With release time, an instructor can maintain the number and type of assignments as well as the level of rigor in all of his/her courses while also being a high performer in another part of the job (which, I'm going to note again, is REQUIRED - not a "pet project" or something like that, but REQUIRED). Now, even though things are comparatively good at my institution, release time has disappeared. And let's say that a faculty member has to teach four courses while also doing a REQUIRED part of her job that will be exceptionally time-intensive. What gives? I'll tell you what gives: stuff in the classroom. Because, realistically, I can control that part of my life more than I can control the required service thing. And so, what I will do is I will assign fewer papers (which means students will not get scaffolded writing assignments and their learning will be affected), I will stop doing quizzes in my lower level classes (which means many students will not be as inclined to keep up with the reading, which will mean that they learn less), and I will eliminate as much prep as possible across my classes, effectively finding time in my teaching to do another REQUIRED part of my job. While it is true that I could take time out of my non-work life instead, protecting students from the reality that my institution expects work from me that they don't support, I refuse to do that.

Honestly, I can see both sides of this issue, but in the end, I think faculty should preserve their classroom time to the fullest extent possible. Maybe faculty can get away with less prep for a while, but they should put in the face time with students and encourage their development as thoughtful citizens at a time when we dearly need them.

Will there be women among the faculty of 2029?

(Cross-posted at BlogHer)

Yes, women will be among the faculty of 2029--but the question is really which faculty, and what will their labor look like?

Last week, The Chronicle of Higher Education asked several college and university faculty and administrators to prognosticate about the shape of higher education institutions and their faculties 20 years from now. The answers varied, and depending on each writer's perspective, were hopeful or dystopian.

Evelyn Hu-Dehart, professor of history and ethnic studies at Brown University and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, writes about a future hierarchy of universities (though to me it seemed more like the present) in which there are a few elite institutions where faculty can undertake research and enjoy all the privileges granted to full professors today. These elite institutions will express diversity of gender, but in order to attract people of color, they will look overseas, to African, West Indian, Latin American, and Asian scholars. There will be some semblance of faculty governance at these universities. This will not be the case for non-elite colleges and universities, she writes:

At the deep base of the pyramid are the majority of postsecondary institutions, most of them public and minimally selective. They are the myriad of community colleges and many state colleges; together they enroll the vast majority of students pursuing postsecondary education. Their mission is to teach and credential students — many of them people of color, low-income, first-generation, nontraditional — for a fast-changing global economy. Only a small proportion of the faculty is full time and tenured. Most are contract employees — casual academic workers who constitute a flexible labor pool whose members can be easily laid off, recalled, or replaced as state budgets dictate. They deliver courses as much online as in a traditional classroom.

These lower-tier institutions attract few private donors and practically no research grants. Faculty governance is not even remotely part of the academic culture. But diversity is visible and meaningful here, for these institutions do provide opportunities for American minority-group members to pursue an academic career in teaching or administration.

Cathy Ann Trower, research director at the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (Coache) at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, imagines what lies at the end of two very different paths:

One is the path of least resistance — maintaining the status quo. If we do not reimagine the academic workplace and change the supporting culture, practices, and policies accordingly, one possibility is that it will look much like it does today, but with still fewer tenured and tenure-track faculty. If current trends continue (from a third of the professoriate tenured in 1997 to one-fourth in 2007), or slow slightly, it is likely that only around 20 percent of all instructional staff will be tenured or on the tenure-track. Faculty members then will be less satisfied than today because they will have had to assimilate and compromise their generation's values (collaboration, transparency, community, flexibility, diversity, interdisciplinarity, work-life integration) to fit into the mold created and institutionalized many years ago by "traditionalists" (competition, secrecy, autonomy, uniformity, homogeneity, disciplinary silos, 24/7 careers). We are, in 2009, seeing signs of decline as doctoral students vote with their feet — heading to the private sector, the government, or other nonprofits. A recent study of over 8,000 doctoral students in the University of California system showed that upon beginning their studies, 45 percent of men and 39 percent of women wanted to pursue careers as professors with an emphasis on research, but those percentages dropped to 36 percent and 27 percent respectively as time progressed. In the sciences, the shift was more dramatic. Why? For both men and women, a major factor was the perceived inflexibility of an academic career at a research university; and for women, being unable to reconcile family life with career pressures in this environment.

The other path, Trower writes, takes into better account the values and social, economic, and demographic paradigms of the 21st century. This path takes us to a place where faculty and students will reap the rewards of a reconfigured system that is shaped less like a tenure-track ladder and more like "lattices that allow movement in many directions" toward teaching and research.

While Hu-Dehart and Trower do offer some hope of renewed vision and vitality in some U.S. universities, most of the visions of the future are grim. Writes Michelle at the blog Getting By,

It's telling that the only positive view of the academy 20 years from now comes from an administrator, not faculty.

Issues of gender did arise in The Chronicle's thought-pieces, but not enough that I was satisfied, so I've been thinking about what the place of women likely will be in these institutions.

As I look toward the future, the historian in me can't help but cast a discerning glance backward as well. I'm technically a historian of museums, which were research institutions long before they embraced public education. In the late 19th and early 20th century U.S., universities usurped museums as the country's premier research institutions, which left some space for women to join museum staffs as scientists in positions of some note; they tended collections of pressed plants, stuffed skins, and animals preserved in formaldehyde and alcohol. (This transition was helped along considerably by the promotion of microscopy and the molecular sciences in universities; museums' collections lent themselves to macro-, rather than micro-, biology) When ecology came into being as a serious science in the second half of the 20th century, museums' collections once again became valuable as repositories of disappearing species and DNA samples. As a class, women scientists were pushed back out--or into educator or administrative positions--by men interested in working with these collections.

I'm wondering if we're going to see a similar stratification of women into teaching positions and men into research. I'm hoping we don't, as professors at top research universities tend to earn far more than their colleagues at teaching-focused institutions like community colleges and state universities.

The only pressure on women won't come from within the universities, however. As Judith Warner points out, distorted social norms are making life increasingly difficult for university women:

This simmering resentment is common and pervasive in our culture right now. The idea that women with a “major education” think they’re better than everyone else, have a great sense of entitlement, feel they deserve special treatment, and are too out of touch with the lives of “normal” women to have a legitimate point of view, is a 21st-century version of the long-held belief that education makes women uppity and leads them to forget their rightful place. It’s precisely the kind of thinking that has fueled Sarah Palin’s unlikely — and continued — ability to pass herself off as the consummately “real” American woman. (And it is what has made it possible for her supporters to discredit other women’s criticism of her as elitist cat fighting.)

The idea that these women really should “be quiet” comes through loud and clear every time. Men, you may or may not have noticed, are virtually never accused of “whining” when they talk or speak out about their lives. When well-educated, affluent men write about other well-educated, affluent men — and isn’t that what most political reporting and commentary is? — they are never said to be limited by the “narrowness” of their scope and experience. Well-educated fathers are not perceived as less real, authentic or decent than less-educated fathers. Even professor-dads, as far as I can tell, don’t have to labor to prove that they’re human.

Dr. Isis suggests it's past time for women to talk openly (and colorfully) about these issues of equity in the workplace, lest we end up in one of those stratified futures

these repeated discussions on how to keep the discourse civil, discussions in which women cannot participate with equity, are ridiculous. It's easy to consider a civil discourse when you've never had your ass grabbed by a colleague, been called "young lady" in front of your peers, or been asked about your reproductive plans. It's easy to ask the participants to be calm, and minimize profanity, when you don't have to keep in the back of you mind which which men to avoid at a meeting when they've been drinking.

There are signs that some grad students are willing to just walk out on careers in academe because of its culture. Audrey Williams June reports that these newly minted Ph.Ds don't consider universities to be family-friendly workplaces. And Sabine Hikel offers veterans of graduate school a glimpse of alternate careers at her blog Leaving Academia. Plus, the WRK4US listserv, which offers a safe place for those with graduate degrees, but particularly Ph.D.s, to discuss careers outside academia.

What do you think? Is it time for faculty and grad students to abandon ship, or is there real hope for reform of American higher education?