I wanted to take the class, to teach the class, to weigh in. But wait! I’m a professor--and I teach writing, for goodness sake!--perhaps I could figure this out on my own…
So, with that rattling on in the back of my head, I read my alumni magazine from Yale and got exercised by an article about gender equity and tenure. I fired off a letter on March 19th and, this week, it showed up in the new issue.
Here, then, is my letter, from March 19 and published in the current issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine. (The website is still a month behind.) it’s probably the publication with the widest circulation I’ll ever have!
To the editors:
I applaud Yale’s stated interest in reassessing its tenure system. Calling “quirky” a system in which only 11% of Humanities faculty receive promotion to tenure seems charitable, even comic. I hope that in its reassessment of junior faculty mentoring and promotion policies, Yale will make provision for mentoring and retaining women. In particular, I hope that Yale will offer maternity leave off the tenure clock to junior faculty who choose to have children.
There is a false and mean-spirited perception among some that young mothers might use this off the clock time to “get ahead.” Anyone with young children (mine are 4 years and 10 months old) knows that even the most diligent and ambitious scholar, with a supportive partner and good childcare, gets very little substantive work done in those first months of a new baby’s life.
I believe in working mothers. Working mothers make wonderful models of balance and commitment for Yale undergraduates. In reconsidering how it treats its junior faculty, Yale has an opportunity to step forward as an example of how an institution can work with young families to combine family life with an energetic and ambitious career.
(The editors note two things: Yale already offers maternity leave “off the clock” and the faculty voted to approve the recommendations listed in the magazine. So, my fiery mood is quickly co-opted into an opportunity for Yale to assert its virtues. Oh well.)
Still, for all the assignments I have on my desk--self-concocted and external--it feels nice to have just rattled off a little piece of writing, a little drop of practical feminism, and launched it into the world.