Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Writing Editorials & Letters to the Editor

I got galvanized by an article in the Times way back on March 15, 2007 by Patricia Cohen describes classes that Catherine Orenstein offers women on how to write editorials. This struck me as a practical answer to the ongoing plaint that women are underrepresented on the editorial pages of the Times and other major papers. (You can read a feisty piece from 2005 by Katha Pollitt who is, as usual, overlooked in this discussion, over at The Nation.)

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.

Thank you,

(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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anne,
I'd love to have you take one of my op-ed seminars - even if you can figure it out on your own. I can see there are some things I could learn from you.
Katie Orenstein

Jenny Davidson said...

I spotted that in the magazine the other day, just stopped by now to say hi & what a fun letter!

Unknown said...

Ooh! Thank you both. In a day of bureaucracies, these comments are most welcome. You made my day!

And yes, Katie, I'll be in touch...

Michelle said...

Congratulations, Anne!

Anonymous said...

Instead, look for detailed photographs of every Rolex Swiss Replica Watches line so that you know exactly what you're getting when that little box arrives in the Look for a solid reputation - just check their positive transactions posted on eBay (yes, you really can get everything on eBay).