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tenure and the capacity to take students

Sarah Boomer sarai at u.washington.edu
Tue Dec 3 14:17:39 EST 1996

Hi -
	I have been having a few interesting conversations with faculty
and students about a situation that happened to me... namely working for
an advisor who struggled and continues to struggle with gaining tenure.
	A few people have pointed out that their dept's actively have
policies that forbid non-tenure or tenure-track faculty from having
students.  I was interested in widening the pool of responders to this
question by asking you all about general policy and thoughts.
	Because this is a women in bio. group, I think this is probably an
important issue to address because women, on average, disproportionately
occupy "research assistant" non-tenure positions more readily than men. 
For my boss, who entered as such a research assistant, it was clear that
having students was the more viable key towards tenure and so she actively
sought out sponsorship for a "graduate faculty-ship" that would allow her
to take students early on in her career here.  Our dept. obviously didn't
have policy against this at the time;  she had been an extremely
successful post doc and now had good NIH funding and the idea that she
would be around for students didn't seem significant enough to disallow
her from taking students - although, despite even more success, the dept. 
has not given her tenure.  Many people have remarked on the fairness and
outright exploitation components of this case to me personally and it is
something I personally have struggled with for years as a student in the
lab, particarly as a woman scientist watching another woman really
struggle in the field.
	The precedent that my boss set, though, in our dept. has clearly
caused the dept. to be more cautious about giving recent high level
post-docs research assistantships and the "power" to have students.  I
would say that it is now an unwritten rule that "graduate facultyship" is
no longer something that a research assistant can easily get. 
	I would also like to hear from graduate students who have worked
under non-tenured bosses.  As a naive first-year, I never questioned
things like tenure status.  The notion that this woman was a good teacher
and a decent person and had money and a lab was all that mattered to me. 
I never thought much about the ramifications of how it would feel to work
in a setting where, really, I felt like we were always fighting for space
and some level of respect.  I don't think I can adequately communicate the
impact of "surviving" this kind of setting has made on the types of career
choices I have made over the years.  Perhaps this explains my desire to
"leave"  academics! 
	Anyway - I'm curious to hear from more people on this one.  To
have accepted this "way of life" for seven years and suddenly have people
say - hey - it's not supposed to be like that is, in some ways, a
revelation.  You start to tell yourself that it's this way everywhere...
so I wanna know!

Sarah Boomer				email:  sarai at u.washington.edu		
Dept.. of Microbiology			work phone:  543-3376
Box 357242				work FAX:  543-3376
University of Washington		
Seattle, WA  98195	

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