Letters

Emory faculty members are invited and encouraged to contribute their ideas and opinions to The Academic Exchange. A range of approaches and formats is available to contributors, from submitting a completed essay to working with a writer to present ideas in interview format. Letters in response to articles and essays are also welcome and will not be published without the author's permission. Contact the managing editor at aadam02@emory.edu for particulars on deadlines and submissions.


Beat the clock

I have just read with interest the article and interviews about childbearing and stopping the tenure clock. I went through the tenure process in 92-93, when my first daughter was two. Apart from the summers when they were born, I did not take time off following the birth of either of my children. When the first was a baby, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to try to publish papers and devote myself to teaching, and I was always conscious of the tenure clock ticking away.

My point is not to complain (after all, I did in fact receive promotion and tenure!), but rather to think about how my experience could have been better. I really felt completely isolated during the time I was pregnant and taking care of a baby. Those in my department with children had gone through the baby stage many years before, and all had had stay-at-home wives doing all babycare. There was really nobody that I could talk to about problems, fears, etc.

I think we could do so much more to help junior faculty than just giving them some time off and stopping the tenure clock. (Though that's a big help, of course!) Perhaps a support group of faculty parents? What about putting together a booklet with the stories of professors who have gone through the childbearing experience? I think that simply knowing that there were others who had gone throught what I was going through would have been a big psychological boost, and I'm sure I could have picked up some practical help as well.

Vicki Powers
Associate Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science


Why tenure?

The first question at the Faculty Town Hall Meeting on March 15 was simple and surprising: "What is the meaning of tenure and why do we have it?" Tenure apparently is now open to a line of inquiry that its original proponents would not have imagined. The colleague who spoke that day, a clinical professor, knew that his compensation derived from his clinical practice. Should he and his patients decline to see each other the university would not be able to underwrite his compensation from other sources. So while he held the "protections" of tenure, such protections would be of little value to him without salary.

Thus we have set before us a powerful issue. Can tenure be tenure without supporting salary? If not, then what, exactly, is the magnitude of a "supporting salary"? These matters, emerging as the American professoriate address new professional and fiscal realities, provide the agenda for a small committee of academic deans to consider. That committee, including Dean Thomas Lawley, Dean Don Stein, and Senior Vice Provost Harriet King, will draft a statement on the responsibilities and privileges of tenure, which I intend to bring to the Emory faculty for further consideration.

Curiously, no one speaking from the floor at the town hall meeting alluded to tenure as a protection to speak and write about controversial matters. Yet such protection was at the core of tenure when its principles were established and now seems beyond question. Whether our society will always give us this protection is a question we should not ignore while asking about a guaranteed paycheck.


William M. Chace
University President


Return to contents page