Approved by the:
University Senate - May 1, 2014
Administration - PENDING
Board of Regents - no action required
The Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs is concerned that the University's support for faculty caregivers--particularly faculty parents but also faculty who are caregivers for dependent adults--is lacking in important ways that can result in disproportionate burdens and potential challenges in recruiting and retaining an excellent and diverse faculty. We are mindful of research that shows significant career disadvantages for women faculty with children--particularly in STEM disciplines where they are already underrepresented. Accordingly, we urge the administration to take the following actions:
1. Where applicable, address the shortage of on-campus or near-campus childcare. Faculty parents need to know that they have available nearby high-quality childcare available on a regular schedule. Faculty parents also need access to drop-in emergency and short-notice childcare that includes off-hour options to support a variety of cases, including participation in occasional early-morning or late-evening activities, care for sick children or for children during school breaks and holidays, and other non-regularly scheduled uses. The committee encourages the administration to explore the full range of alternatives, including extending the services available through the UMN Child Development Center (which currently suffers from long waiting lists and limited flexibility) and exploring partnerships with commercial child care firms. The research and commentary available to the committee suggests that on-campus care is extremely important, especially to mothers of young children, and we urge that the possibility of sites on campus be given emphasis.
2. Raise awareness of unit-level practices that may adversely affect faculty caregivers. Our review identified a range of issues and practices, including scheduling important meetings and events (seminars, faculty meetings, recruiting meetings, etc.) in the early morning, late afternoon, or evening. We are particularly concerned about the potential prejudicial effect on tenure and promotion of a faculty caregiver of the unspoken assumptions that failure to attend evening or early morning events may reflect a lack of seriousness and commitment rather than simply restrictions on available time. We are similarly concerned that not all faculty members voting on tenure cases have internalized the concept that extending the probationary period means just that. There is not an expectation that the faculty member must attain a higher level of performance or impact to meet the tenure criteria. In addition, work done during the extension period is counted as part of the cumulative body of work assessed for promotion and tenure. Of particular importance is ensuring that unit heads are well-trained and well-mentored on the University's goals and policies supporting faculty caregivers, and on how they can structure department activities and evaluation to support them.
3. Raise awareness of the availability of special contracts for faculty who have a temporary need to reduce their appointment. The university's flexibility in this area is significantly greater than most faculty are aware of. These possibilities should be better-promoted to allow those who have a temporary need to reduce their appointment below full-time to do so appropriately, rather than face the stress and uncertainty that otherwise may result. Questions about fringe benefits while holding such appointments would have to be addressed, as would options (if available) to move from (for example) 50% time to 100% time. We believe, however, that such appointments, if available more generally than by special arrangements, could, for example, make the University more attractive to faculty members with children who it wishes to recruit (or to faculty members who may be thinking about having children).
4. Provide clear guidance on mechanisms to permit financial support to offset additional expenses of faculty caregivers' professional activities. It is in the University's interest to support the professional development and advancement of its faculty. Accordingly, the University has policies and procedures under which University-managed funds -- including sponsored and non-sponsored funds -- can be used to support faculty travel to conferences and meetings, research travel, academic visits, and other professional activities. For faculty caregivers, such travel has additional burdens associated with alternative caregiving or in some cases co-travel (e.g., with a nursing child). Faculty members and units need clear guidance on how and when such additional expenses can be paid for by University-managed funds, and on how units can make such support available without adverse tax consequences for the University or for the traveling faculty member. To the extent that current policies do not permit such support, SCFA recommends that the administration revise such policies to explicitly permit such support, both at unit expense and through sponsored research funding, to the greatest extent possible.