Dear Doug, Kathy, and members of the Faculty Senate:
Through the rapidly changing situation of the COVID-19 response, we have appreciated how you've quickly adapted and addressed numerous concerns for our campus community. In light of the Provost's message(s) on 4/2/20 on the tenure clock extension, we had a few concerns emerge which we think are important to share with you all to consider the equitable and suitable courses of action. Thank you for considering the following points, and we are always available if you have any questions, need additional resources, or if we could be of help in any way.
Tenure Clock Extension for COVID-19: Opt-out > Opt-in: Acknowledging that tenure clock extensions may be warranted for COVID-19 is very much appreciated. We wanted to draw your attention to research that the general best practice is to make policies “opt out” rather than “opt in”. This is captured in the excerpt below from p6 of a report from UC Hastings https://worklifelaw.org/ which was used by the Penn Med School:
Stop-the-clock and other policies such as family leave that rely on faculty to "opt in" to the policies rather than opt out of them often leave faculty members in the uncomfortable position of negotiating with chairs about whether they will take leave. A 2002 national survey of over 4,000 faculty members revealed that 33% of faculty who were parents—mothers and fathers—did not ask for parental leave, and just less than 20% did not ask to stop the tenure clock, even though they thought they would have benefited from doing so. 15 Designing policies as opt-out rather than opt-in sends the message that the institution expects faculty to use the policies that are made available to them. As noted above, opt out policies also avoid situations in which faculty feel uncomfortable asking their chairs for permission to use the policies.
- Create stand-alone extension > use one of the existing 1-year extensions: Are we limiting faculty who feel they have been impacted by COVID-19 from having at their disposal the tenure clock extension options they looked forward to having just in case? We are asking people to use the 'get out of jail free card' when they could face something else dire for their progress down the road. We hear that faculty found the "any reason" extension important in their decision to accept a position at Lehigh, and also that they are now worried about 'burning this' allowable extension now. Some faculty pursuing scholarship that is less impacted by COVID-19 will still have both opportunities. A Stand Alone COVID-19 extension mechanism would get around this inequity and make it available for all.
- Re-evaluate the eight-year limit: For either case (novel COVID-19 extension option or link the COVID-19 reasons into the current terms of a year-long extension), we need to consider that the 8-year clock may not make sense in this situation. Even if someone gets back to scholarship soon, the rest of the system (i.e., grant funding, publications, etc.) may be impacted in ways our colleagues cannot directly control and so the time for the post-COVID productivity to bear fruit may take people beyond that 8th year. Again, flexibility and attention to professional career planning make the most sense - this is how we show our support and endorsement that the colleague is tenurable.
Other faculty career stage evaluations impacted by COVID-19: The statements so far by the Provost address our pre-tenure faculty colleagues. Evaluation steps and impacts of COVID-19 on POPs and already tenured colleagues are also important to address. Will the upcoming reappointment review, promotion to full, and triennial review be eligible for similar extensions with suitable flexibility?
Guidance on how to document disruption: Will we see statements to the effect that colleagues should list on their CV cancelled conferences, invited talks, and other indicators of impact and reach and service? These will be important to demonstrate what was happening during this period.
Service: We recommend finding a way to acknowledge two other kinds of work, which some colleagues have placed in the sphere of service. First, we have colleagues who really stepped up to help and provide support with the technical and facilitation tools to transition teaching to an online mode of crisis delivery in the midst of managing their own transition and disruptions. Similarly, if people received this support, it would be terrific for them to give credit to those that went above and beyond. Second, we immediately heard stories of real heavy lifting that colleagues are doing to help faculty and staff and students cope and manage through this crisis. The number of emails and calls some colleagues are getting/making has ramped up, and the toll it takes to return to other thinking is immense. Often, students expect women to provide more of this emotional support; additionally, faculty of color may be disproportionately impacted during this pandemic, as students of color typically seek out faculty from similar races/ethnicities. Some faculty are also bearing the brunt of the cognitive load at home (managing childcare, homeschooling, and their own professional duties). While both men and women may be dealing with these demands, research shows that women tend to bear the brunt of these responsibilities in the home. For faculty undergoing reappointment reviews, promotion to full, and triennial reviews in the coming years, these additional hidden labor loads beyond the usual mentoring of students and colleagues should be considered.
Kristen L. Jellison, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Director, ADVANCE Center for Women STEM Faculty
Marci Levine, PhD
Lehigh ADVANCE Center