Archive for Sunday, November 7, 1993

KU FACULTY FACE PARENTAL LEAVE DILEMMA

November 7, 1993

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Some Kansas University faculty struggle to deal with the competing pressures of raising children and attaining tenure.

Sandra Albrecht has vacillated between the joy of motherhood and the despair of dealing with Kansas University's maternity leave policy.

"I found the university's maternity policy wasn't adequate," said Albrecht, associate professor of sociology and director of the women's studies program.

Using sick leave or an unpaid leave of absence to stay home for several months with her daughter Molly, now nearly 3, wasn't an acceptable option.

"I wasn't in a financial situation to take off time. Lots of people aren't," she said.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines of this issue, Albrecht decided in 1991 to chair a subcommittee in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that studied maternity leave.

The result: a proposal to implement a one-year delay in the tenure clock for untenured faculty in the case of the birth or adoption of a child. It would apply to male and female faculty with a new child.

"We're hoping we'll be able to get it passed this year" by faculty goverance, Albrecht said. "It's our belief that it's important for building families."

A final decision would rest with the Kansas Board of Regents, which has jurisdiction over state universities.

Currently, KU faculty have six years to receive tenure.

Sandra Gautt, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at KU, said KU had worked unsuccessfully for several years to formulate a new maternity leave policy that would be applicable to all faculty on campus.

"Many institutions have struggled with this issue," she said.

Gautt said a universitywide committee that also studied the issue wanted an expanded policy to cover other personal problems -- death of a spouse or personal illness, for example -- that could make it difficult for faculty to make steady progress in the teaching, research and public service duties required of people warranting tenure.

"But the way it was worded was difficult to deal with in terms of making judgments about which circumstances it would apply," she said. "We didn't want something wide open to leave us open to abuse."

Gautt expects another variation of the tenure-clock suspension proposal to surface early next year from the universitywide committee.

Albrecht said some version of the tenure-clock concept should be adopted by KU because it's a modest proposal.

Other schools -- University of Washington and Michigan State University -- offer up to three months of paid maternity leave, she said.

A University Work and Family Committee actually asked KU officials several years ago for a policy permitting a paid 10-week parental leave.

"We were realists," Albrecht said. "We looked at the financial situation at the university, which took a couple of seconds. What chances were there of ever getting 10 weeks of paid leave? Zero. That's why we feel strongly about the tenure-clock idea."

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