article equivalents

I went to a reception yesterday for outstanding women of color at the university. This was a lovely event except that we all had to stand for an hour of awards presentations and keynote. The award winners had all done jaw-dropping amounts of service. The keynoter was a Native American professor whose first career was in journalism. She used the occasion to criticize the academy for failing to give adequate credit for service. She said that diversity is not just a matter of getting darker skins in the place, it is a matter of getting people from different communities who have different priorities. She was arguing that diversifying the institution must include giving greater weight to service in the tenure process, making the “three legs” of the academic stool (teaching, research, service) more evenly balanced. For her and for most women of color, she said, what you do is not just about yourself but about what you contribute to your community. I was reminded of other things I’ve been reading/hearing that confirm the difference between the individualism of White professionals and the family and community focus of other groups. Few communities of color need another article in a peer reviewed journal, she said. Then she said something like: “Each board or committee or community project or group of students mentored is another article or book chapter you don’t have time to write.” There really is a finite amount of time and if you are doing a lot of service you have less time to do research and write. You cannot really diversity the institution unless you change the reward structure to acknowledge the importance of service.

(This in turn reminded me of a brief conversation I had years ago with a couple of very prominent woman sociologists. People had exchanged information on the order of “I’m dealing with children now, you know how that is,” and grunts of acknowledgment. Then one woman said, “I was talking about this to X [prominent male sociologist] and he said that each child he had cost him an article.” Eye rolling, exasperated sighs. One article, right. We wish. “Five or six articles at least,” muttered one woman.)

To clarify: I don’t think institutions can or should reward time spent in child-rearing, although they should accommodate it. But institutions can and probably should better reward time spent in community service. How to do this is a hard issue.

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. It isn't hard to figure out my real name if you want to, but I keep it out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either!), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with.

17 thoughts on “article equivalents”

  1. My U has raises that you can get through earning “extra” points through going outside of your contract. If you teach, research, and do service beyond tenure requirements, you get money added on to your salary (though it’s not added to your base pay). While it still requires teaching & research as parts of this, the research requirements are more minimal then you’d think. A lot of people who do lots of service end up getting financially rewarded this way. Not that it’s a perfect system, but perhaps a step in the direction?

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  2. Then one woman said, “I was talking about this to X [prominent male sociologist] and he said that each child he had cost him an article.”

    I wish I’d never read this.

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      1. If what he means is that he is afraid that future childrearing will hamper his academic career, I can definitely relate.

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    1. I guess I have a hard time seeing these two things as commensurable. Sure, I recognize trade-offs, but putting a number on it seems overly-utilitarian and calculating.

      I see your point that women, especially in past decades, faced bigger trade-offs than men because of inequity in the child rearing process. But I think that decisions about how much time to allocate to child rearing or whether to have children at all are pretty complicated and shouldn’t be equated directly with losses in productivity. I refer to Jessica’s earlier post about the possible benefits of having kids during grad school.

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      1. Ah, yes. Here’s how I see it. If you are sane and disciplined enough to limit your work week to 40 hours or so when you are childless, and you use child care for 45 hours a week beginning 2 weeks after the baby’s birth, and you have a spouse or child care arrangement for the rest of the time that permits you to get physical exercise and relaxation (so you don’t burn out), and the child does not have exceptional needs or health problems, then the only impact on your productivity will be the 1-12 months (it varies) of reduced mental competence due to sleep deprivation, per baby.

        If you have been used to working 60 (or60+) hours a week to get your research/writing done on top of teaching and committee work, you are either going to increase the paid child care, take advantage of a spouse who does more than you, or reduce your productivity (and probably also your teaching quality). It’s just math.

        If you are one of the folks you assesses your productivity by how many articles you crank out (I do know some) or if you are in a department that so assesses you, it isn’t all that nutty to think of this in article-units. That’s what the trade offs are. There really are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. Women are just as competitive as men: we measure our work careers by the same standards as men do.

        Edit: Realizing this is overkill for the comment, I think the point is the same as the service point: people get upset if/when they think that others are minimizing what’s involved in what they do.

        I thought one of the things Jessica was saying is that having a child in grad school forces you into a more sane 40-hour a week type life from the get go.

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      2. I thought one of the things Jessica was saying is that having a child in grad school forces you into a more sane 40-hour a week type life from the get go.

        True. Kids definitely make your schedule more regimented, which I always saw as an advantage, especially in grad school.

        To be honest, I don’t know how productive I’d be without kids because I had two from day one of grad school. I’m not a single mom of course, but I am a pretty involved parent. My main point was just that I don’t think it’s at all clear that having children leads to a loss of productivity. You may find unexpected efficiency gains as the result of having children. Other things are likely to go before writing articles because you realize how much your children depend on it.

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      3. My main point was just that I don’t think it’s at all clear that having children leads to a loss of productivity. You may find unexpected efficiency gains as the result of having children. Other things are likely to go before writing articles because you realize how much your children depend on it.

        Enter research on <a href="http://www.jstor.org/pss/4106103"<sociologists, gender, and productivity. There is a gender difference, but the actual difference is interesting – it looks like young children contribute to greater productivity for women and have no effect on men?

        Here’s a relatively non-relevant quote from the article explaining why women with young children might see an increase in productivity (whereas men do not), that I just happen to like because the typo makes it funny:

        “First while women are significantly less likely than me to have children (see Table 1), those women who do have children may have greater health, energy, and stamina than women without children.”

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    2. “Then one woman said, “I was talking about this to X [prominent male sociologist] and he said that each child he had cost him an article.””

      Geez! What a crummy, horrible attitude toward life – a human being is compared to a 35 page paper with a regression in it! And a human being carrying your DNA? I am about to use family unfriendly language to describe this person, but I’ll refrain.

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  3. I am sympathetic, but I am not convinced that any mechanism put into place to reward community service will result in more equal treatment of faculty. Privelege isn’t going to turn itself off when the new policy is in place, and the primary result will be that priveleged groups will be in a better position to frame their work as legitimate community work. Suddenly, coaching a soccer team will be an activity easily logged and verified and officially noted, but the community building work of bringing neighbours together in a low-income setting will look a lot like idle chat and informal conversations, without the benefit of a legitimating organization that can document work put in. This is a depressing response to a real problem, but just like the childcare problem, I don’t see an easy solution.

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  4. Tina: I agree about privilege and the difficulty of “counting” certain kinds of things. But there is an “outreach” model which is active on my campus as some of our units (like the Ag School) have extension or outreach obligations as part of their mission. Our divisional committee has formal standards for assessing outreach activities (which were drawn up by people from units with outreach/extension missions). This isn’t coaching soccer, it is formally using your professional skills. So, for example, there are faculty & staff at my Uni whose job description includes community organizing and community education. Not saying there are not still issues, but there are models.

    There are also formal “community service” standards that are kind of modeled on the outreach/extension standards that, again, speak to using professional skills and list ways of getting evaluations of them. Not just how much time you spent, but what you got done and what other people think about what you got done.

    The issue is whether core academic departments will be willing to “count” this.

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  5. “If you are one of the folks you assesses your productivity by how many articles you crank out (I do know some) or if you are in a department that so assesses you…”

    in fact this is how most departments are going to assess you. Cost measured in terms of articles sounds quite accurate to me.

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  6. Faculty of color face a particular burden with respect to service that’s often neglected: most faculty committees want/need to have minority representation; and some committees are specifically dedicated to minority affairs (recruitment, retention, etc) for which minority representation is an absolute necessity. Minority faculty, however, are underrepresented on most faculties, forcing some (especially junior) faculty of color to serve on more committees than their white peers. Add to that that there are relatively more minority students than minority faculty, and that the former often prefer to work with the latter. Hence, minority faculty can experience a greater advising burden than white faculty–again, anecdotal experience suggests, especially among junior faculty. Not sure if this should be considered in the tenure decision, but it should be recognized as a problem.

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  7. Rugstudy: thanks for getting back to the real topic of the post. I apologize for introducing the red herring. This is a very important point and it is one that I have heard tenure committees explicitly address. So people do know about it, or ought to. But whether they give sufficient weight to it is another question.

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  8. Totally agree with @6.rugstudy, but I’m much more skeptical of:

    Few communities of color need another article in a peer reviewed journal

    and of valuing service alongside publications and teaching in a similar calculus.

    Frankly few communities of any sort “need” another article in a peer reviewed journal – if you’re in academia in order to provide short-term needs to a given community you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Intellectual work is very valuable, but not in the material, immediate way the comment implies.

    And I think community engagement/service is something that ought to be done freely, not traded off upon as one or another kind of work. I have no problem with it being part of the expectations or “extras” on a tenure or promotion case, but don’t think it should be fungible with truly academic work.

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  9. Rugstudy is spot on. I know many women, particularly at the higher ranks, who have extraordinary service burdens. Some of these appointments are emotional drains: the sexual harassment tribunal, the pay equity study committee, and the committee that reviews tenure denial appeals based on racial or gender bias. I don’t know how they can come to work some days.

    It is time for serious discussion at the dean and provost levels of universities to recognize the unequal burdens of service that accrue to women and minorities in the faculty. One should not be asked to be a mentor, role model, and constituent representative all the time without recognizing the personal and professional cost.

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