balancing teaching and scholarship
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Faculty Fathers: Toward a New Ideal in the Research University
Date Reviewed: October 15, 2015
In this insightful project, Sallee examines a largely unexamined area of gender equity in North American higher education. Sallee provides a compelling case for why faculty work-life balance considerations ought to include male faculty on the tenure-track. In eight chapters, Sallee analyzes her study of seventy male faculty members across various ranks and disciplines in four public research institutions within the Association of American Universities: Eastern University, Mid-West University, Southern University, and Western University. The study included forty-six white faculty, five Latinos and Asians respectively, and fourteen faculty of unknown ethnicity. Regrettably, other faculty of color declined participation. Interviewees serve in humanities and social sciences, sciences and engineering, and in professional schools (such as medicine and business).
The author claims that gender norms still prescribe work expectation and research universities in particular still prize the male worker as the ideal worker: she calls the phenomenon hegemonic masculinity in a gendered-university. This study suggests that male faculty have to choose between being an ideal worker or an ideal father – if they are or plan to be a parent. For this study, conscientious fatherhood inevitably shapes one’s scholarly engagement and thereby affects research productivity, quality of scholarship or depth of intellectual thought, and choice of a research project undertaken. An engaged father would have fewer uninterrupted blocks of time for research, thinking, and for formulating solutions to difficult problems. This study concludes that a faculty father would generally seek safer lines of inquiry, projects that are closer to home, or that require less travel and commitments. Consequently, male faculty -- particularly those from Generation X on the tenure track -- tend to lean more towards their family roles than towards becoming ideal scholar researchers. Male faculty generally experience professional pressure and may feel penalized when they prioritize family commitments over research, publication, grant applications, and teaching. If a male faculty member prioritizes work, the study finds that their family will likely suffer. Some universities may grant accommodation for work-life balance, such as extending the tenure-clock or releasing faculty from teaching duties. Nonetheless, male faculty, especially those whose spouses are working (be it full-time or part-time in academic or non-academic appointments) tend not to use these privileges for fear that higher administration or their colleagues would regard them as less serious professionals and academics. While not all male faculty interviewed felt this pressure or experienced being shortchanged, most perceived inequitable expectations.
In light of her research, Sallee offers research universities policy proposals to catalyze change. She urges that universities set the standard and correct the entrenched, unhealthy culture of hegemonic masculinity and expectation in contemporary work-life tensions. I agree with Sallee. My question is how does the increasing trend of employing adjuncts complexify her inquiry, and what changes can higher education make to facilitate a healthy employment and education culture that genuinely benefits all stakeholders, not just in research universities but in most institutions of learning?
Academic Working Lives: Experience, Practice and Change
Date Reviewed: March 26, 2015
This compendium presents the reader with a myriad of international studies featuring methods of analysis on topics as varied as U.K. governmental policy regarding postsecondary education to the email habits of academics. Despite the disparate nature of the topics, methods, and analyses of these chapters, they each orient themselves around a central axis . . . that of the academic’s working life. The editors/research team assembled these short, seemingly splintered studies into the weighty tome that sits before me. The book itself exemplifies the momentum behind the project; it effectively registers the impact that thirty years of ideological, economic, technological, and political change has had on the work life of the academic. Long gone are the seemingly halcyon days of the lone academic researcher plumbing the depths of musty texts in the library. Many of these studies touch on the nature of academic work and how regulating agencies around the world (although these studies focus on the U.K., U.S., Japan, and a few other locations) have attempted to quantify the work (research, teaching, grant writing, administrative tasks, and so forth) done by academics. These various authors do not shy away from addressing how issues such as social class, gender, and social and political hierarchies continue to play out within academic worlds. A particularly compelling chapter highlights some of the divergent as well as shared problems among researchers in a number of institutions in African countries and Ireland.
While other texts and studies have focused on the success or failure of educational reform in regard to student or institutional success, these studies look to the effect (good or bad or nil) these changes in educational policy, administrative practices, budgetary restrictions, technological innovations, and political and economic social narratives (such as commodification of education) have on the quotidian aspects of academic life. A few especially compelling chapters stuck out from the rest. One of these is Kelly and Boden’s “How Management Accounting Shapes Lives,” which explores the problem of the university-as-business ethos by tracking a professor seeking to combine outside research and teaching responsibilities and the skewed accounting which blocks him from doing so.
On a more philosophical note, some authors wrote about what it means to examine, evaluate, and audit academic work, and others asked how grants, contract work, and contingency in academia create less than desirable conditions not just for academics but also for the research they produce. In her chapter on learning technologies, Alison Hudson utilizes Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical nomenclature (symbolic violence and social capital, for example) to illustrate the changing dynamics in the fields of education and governance. She pinpoints the beginning of the radical shift in academics’ lives to the moment when “practice became increasingly influenced not by fundamental values and ethics, but by technologies of control aimed at changing the characteristic of the field” (248).
Encyclopedic and topical, the editors have grouped these writings into five themed parts each of which contain a set of short, readable studies. Although the text is over three hundred pages, it is arranged in a reader friendly manner. These studies provide valuable reading for administrators, policy makers, academics, and anyone interested in the working lives of academics around the globe.
(Eric) I’ve started wondering recently if scholarship boils down to the courage to say something aloud, the courage to say something in the midst of a chorus full of others saying similar or different things. This same description could well be applied to teaching as well. There are a ...