Friday, April 06, 2007

How much further?

A cool article on "Inside Higher Ed" highlights Princeton's recent family leave policy for its graduate students.

A comment by "Science Prof" shows how so very much further we have to go.

The fact that women have a “biological clock” means nothing. The issue is still one of people making choices and accepting the consequences.

In my graduate program, I would much prefer to have grad students who have no children. They are willing to work harder and will not be whining about having to be home by 5 p.m. Graduate school is extremely demanding — my graduate program often requires an 80+ hour/week commitment. Grad students who have children are often unwilling to make that sort of a time commitment and they often fall behind or flunk out.

This is simply the nature of graduate school. Attempting to make it more “family friendly” will 1.) Reduce the academic standards of the program to accomodate students who cannot make the required time commitment and, 2.) Raise the costs on everyone else — especially students without children, who will likely end up paying more in tuition to subsidize those who do have children.

In 30 seconds, I thought of 11 faculty members at my university who could have written this.


Laura said...

Sigh. Probably reading the comments there would make my blood boil. I'd just like to point out, for the record, that I had children when I started grad school. When I began doing the real writing on my dissertation, I had 2 children, a full-time job, and went through a couple of major life events. And I finished in a little over a year. There was very little whining and I did not flunk out. So there.

kb said...


That's the sound of Princeton moving up twenty ticks in my "places I might want to work" list.

And I won't even be a graduate student.

Elizabeth said...

Where is this guy a "Science Professor" that grad students pay tuition?

DC said...

I recently talked with a med student about the new restrictions on the hours that interns (next step after getting the MD) can work. Previously, they had to be with certain patients at whatever time the patients were doing anything medically-related. Now, they are limited to a certain number of hours/day. There are similar sentiments on one side of the issue, but on the other side are the people talking about how these interns can now have more mental capacity available to learn and so forth.

So some things are moving in the right direction.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

Princeton did a great report on women in science and family policies, too.

I can think of at least three profs who could have written it. 'Well, I didn't have any problems with family! I still worked 100 hours a week and walked uphill both ways!' With their stay-at-home wives.

As for whomever this person is, we can only hope he will go extinct with the rest of the dinosaurian professors. One day.

Jane said...

You know, I'm starting to think that when people don't really have a strong argument against something, they will trot out the "but it will reduce academic standards!" card. (Or, my personal favorite corrollary, "we don't want to dumb down the major".) Sigh.

kb said...

I have to comment again, because "PLEASE DON'T MAKE STUFF UP." is perhaps the coolest comment title ever. I giggled.

Why are people so dumb? This isn't about making a separate set of standards for students with children. It's just about making it less impossible for those students to reach their potential.

Dr. Lemming said...

I hope that letter-writer's grad students unionize on his ass and start demanding overtime. And I hope his University's insurance company raises his premiums for overworking people in hazardous situations.

What these crusty old fogies forget is that today's students can replicate the old fart's entire first decade of research in about three hours of analytical time, due to advances in technology. What was a PhD project 40 years ago is now an undergraduate take-home lab.

Any lab manager with half a brain cell knows that happy, well-balanced researchers work smarter and more productively than 100 hour-per-week stress baskets.

Niket said...

I can see where this ScienceProf is coming from. I have seen several instances of above average graduate students quitting due to family reasons (got married, had kids, or sickness/death in family). When students quit for non-family reasons, we try to evaluate more objectively the reasons behind their decision. However, the "family reason" cases solely get slotted as "oh because she got married/had kids". I said she because alternative explanations are possible for him, but often not for her.

I know of two friends who quit because the PhD was stressful. First one went back to their home country, the second one got married and took up a job. I know for a fact that the decision of the latter was as much stress related as the former. But faculty viewed the latter as family reasons.

In another case, a friend was tolerating abuse from her advisor (overworking, not sexual or anything else). The student was a good student, advisor was well-respected... just that their temparaments didn't match. Getting married, in my view, gave her the "emotional freedom" (for lack of a better word) to quit. Again, this was thought to be another case of a woman quitting after getting married.

out of the night that covers me said...

wow. i read that and thought to myself, why don't we just burn the constitution while we're at it.

GradSchool IsFun said...

I am in one of the 3 graduate programs in the country that has maternity leave FOR GRAD STUDENTS! This is great. But we also need mandatory paternity leave in order to level the playing field. That way, it men must take time off when they have kids. Being a female and wanting to have kids would be the same as being a male (in terms of time off).
No one has yet to make use of this maternity leave however.