The Alfred P. Sloan Projects for Faculty Career Flexibility
This page is designed to provide assistance to administrators in creating, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining career flexibility policies and practices for faculty and also contains additional resources.
Assessing Where You Stand
Our winning institutions have benefited from assessing where they stand on flexibility by benchmarking against other institutions. Applicants for the Sloan Awards completed both an Institutional Survey and Faculty Survey. The policy areas that were assessed were: a) tenure clock adjustment, b) modified duties (temporary or partial relief), c) parental leaves, d) phased retirement, and e) part-time appointments. Copies of those surveys are available by contacting the Institutional Leadership Group (see below).
The University of California system has also done extensive surveys on faculty work and family balance, sharing their data through articles like, "Do Babies Matter? Parts I and II" (PDF) and most recently, "Why Graduate Students Reject the Fast Track." They use this data to inform institutional policy aimed at improving campus climate related to family formation. Their surveys were used as a model for all three rounds of the American Council on Education (ACE)/Alfred P. Sloan Faculty Career Flexibility Awards.
Ideas for additional policies can be found through the National Clearinghouse for Academic Worklife, housed at the University of Michigan. For examples of policy language, see the web page for Work Life from the Office of Academic Personnel at the University of California, Davis.
Once institutions determine which policies and practices they need to have in place, bias should be eliminated for both the users of the policies, and the administrators who enforce those policies.
Many of the best practices for faculty career flexibility seem to exist for tenure-track faculty or for women. To create a culture of inclusiveness, several campuses have created policies that target faculty who are in either category. The University of Washington, which only had paid leave for biological mothers (during the period of disability), realized the inequity that existed for biological fathers and parents of either sex who adopted. Therefore, they began a pilot program for this population, and are investigating the feasibility of continuing the teaching releases for faculty. Likewise, Duke University felt that flexible work options (PDF) should be available for childcare, eldercare, phased retirement, or other personal reasons. More details on this option can be found here (PDF).
Although policies may be on the books, faculty may be hesitant to use them for fear of repercussions later in their careers. Transparency helps create a climate of acceptance for usage of these policies for pre-tenure faculty when they know how their usage will affect their careers. For example, UC Davis has created language that explicitly tells reviewers that faculty who have taken a leave "be evaluated without prejudice". Lehigh University expressly demands that faculty who have had extensions not be held to higher standards (PDF).
The University of Florida has seen the need for combating bias in caregiving and tenure clock extension on its campus by cleverly updating and changing the requirement for faculty to sit on search committees. Knowing that faculty value selecting their peers within their own colleges, the University of Florida requires that every search committee member participate in an online training module that discusses how to assess gaps in a candidate's resume. After faculty complete the online tutorial, they are required to take "refresher" courses every three years to maintain their knowledge of fair and effective recruiting practices.
The University of California system has developed a comprehensive family-friendly website that exemplifies transparency not only in detailing all the options available to faculty, but also has many statements from their gender equity committees, the President's Office, and Chancellors' offices that demonstrate institutional commitment at the highest levels.
Dual Career Options
Several campuses have found that offering dual career options and same-sex benefits assist in creating flexibility for faculty members. Duke University demonstrates its commitment to dual-career hiring by working with regional campuses in hiring academic couples. If Duke has extended an offer to the primary hire, Duke agrees to pay 1/3 of the salary for the secondary hire at two local institutions (UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh). The funding lasts for several years, and the other institutions have a reciprocal agreement with Duke should they employ the primary hire.
Our winning institutions found that widespread publicity of all flexible career policies and practices available was helpful in increasing knowledge and usage of these policies.
The UC Faculty Family-Friendly Edge initiative has one of the most comprehensive educational campaigns in the nation for career flexibility. This web based toolkit has multiple resources available for researchers, faculty, and administrators about the various programs and policies on the UC campuses, as well as statements from senior campus leaders on the importance of family friendly policies on the campus. The web site also archives copies of an online newsletter for UC families, and its circulation reaches over a 1000 recipients. The Berkeley and Davis campuses also created brochures for their faculty, highlighting campus-specific policies, which are distributed regularly.
Lehigh's brochure, Balancing Work & Life (PDF), was created during its funding period. Available both online and directly from the provost's office, and containing all of their policies related to flexibility in the academy, this brochure was mailed to all faculty in the university, and is included in packets for new faculty.
The University of Washington's Balance @UW initiative showcased the eight programs they wanted in place by 2008 (Eight by '08). All faculty were mailed a descriptive postcard that outlined the Balance @UW program, and a new web site was created on the provost's web pages to increase knowledge about the program.
Training of Key Gatekeepers
Our winning institutions also found that key to implementing their career flexibility plans was the training of key gatekeepers, such as department chairs, and the training of mentors or other advisors.
Through the coordinating office at the University of California, Davis, a family-friendly advisor/mentor program (PDF) is available for department chairs and other senior staff to participate in. Davis tries to have at least one department chair from all of its colleges, including the law school, participate in the program so that information is shared equitably and consistently across the university.
The University of California system, under the Family Friendly Edge program, has created an online booklet for chairs and deans (PDF) dedicated to improving the culture at the department level for encouraging usage of family-friendly policies. The toolkit discusses how departments can be family-friendly, lists legal "do's and don'ts", provides case examples of accommodating requests for flexibility, and has a chart outlining what types of leave are available by caregiver status and type of pay (i.e., paid or unpaid), so that both faculty and "gatekeepers" have the correct information.
Measuring and Rewarding Usage
In addition to creating and implementing flexible career options for faculty, ACE recommends evaluating the utilization of faculty career flexibility policies. These evaluations can be used to determine if policies are equitably enforced across departments on campus, and if there are negative career repercussions for faculty over time. UC Davis Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Barbara Horowitz recently completed a study of usage and found that requests had steadily increased over time, and that men and women were using the program equally (click here for her presentation).
Lehigh University tracks usage of its Family and Medical Leave (FML) Policy while rewarding faculty who use the program by giving them a $6000 grant, which assists them in ramping back up for their return to campus. In this manner, they can evaluate how the faculty member felt his or her career benefited from the leave.
Iowa State University, through its Sloan Innovation award, has developed a cost-benefit model (PDF) which calculates the return on investment of offering flexibility to faculty. More information was presented at its 2008 ACE/Iowa State ADVANCE conference.
ACE's series on institutional transformation, On Change: En Route to Transformation (PDF), discussed a 2X2 matrix to assess change within an organization. Looking at both the depth and breath of change, four types of change were proposed: a) adjustments; b) isolated change; c) far-reaching change; and d) transformational change.
Examples of a) adjustments would include programs that had been limited to a specific gender or tenure status, but are now expanded to include those options. Examples of b) isolated change would include temporary funding for these programs, or funding that is department-based. Examples of c) far-reaching change would include change programs that have been codified, centrally funded, and communicated to the appropriate constituency. Examples of d) transformational change would include eliminating jeopardy for faculty who use these programs, rewarding faculty who used flexibility policies, and tracking outcomes.
A good example of this transformational change is Lehigh University's Family and Medical Leave (FML) policy. Its eligibility is extended to both male and female faculty, for family caregiving to a spouse/partner, sick child, or parent. Faculty can extend the tenure clock if they choose to, with an automatic extension for care for a newborn or newly adopted child. In addition, expectations for meeting tenure criteria are not increased for tenure-track faculty who receive extensions. For those faculty who use this program, a small research grant is given to faculty to assist them with maintaining their research during this time. Lehigh has chosen to continue funding this program after its Sloan Award grant expired, and now the funding comes from the Provost's office.
Leadership from the Top
In order to sustain initiatives at the institutional level, colleges and universities must ensure that policies and programs apply to all individuals and deeply penetrate the culture of the institution. When these changes are pervasive and penetrating, they become transformational; therefore changes in leadership do not affect a climate of continuing flexibility.
Several of the Sloan award winning campuses (from all three rounds of awards) have had significant leadership changes (either president or provost) since the process began, but have continued with their flexibility accelerator plans. Lehigh University, Simmons College, and the University of Baltimore all have had either new presidents or provosts in the last few years, but are committed to enhancing faculty career flexibility on their campuses. Generally, these Sloan initiatives have been housed in the office of the provost or chief academic officer, and thus have had the support of the senior leader for faculty affairs. Some institutions have tied flexibility to their mission and core values. For example, Santa Clara University in California, has a strategic plan that embraces the Jesuit tradition of education "the whole person", thereby justifying time to balance faculty work and family life. Furthermore, others have included career flexibility as a goal in their strategic plan. For example, a recent award winner, Washington & Lee, lists work-life balance as one of its university-wide initiatives.
Addressing Cultural Change
Although many flexibility interventions are aimed at creating new policies and increasing use, few programs are successful in altering the culture on a campus that needs to occur for transformational change. One way Lehigh University has sought to overcome resistance to changing the culture is to reward use of parental or family leave among faculty. Called the Sloan Career Flexibility grants, these $6000 mini-grants promote faculty use of leave time by enabling faculty to use the money for various activities and tools, which will help them ramp back up to return for their research.
Another example of addressing cultural change is the University of Washington's brochure (PDF) given to department chairs on how to create a climate for increased responsiveness for flexibility within their departments. The brochure also lists the flexibility goals the university wished to achieve. Likewise, the University of Florida developed a Faculty Recruitment Toolkit (PDF) that search committees members must read and review as part of their certification before sitting on a the committee. The toolkit advises members on how to be more receptive to faculty who have taken advantage of flexible policies in their career.
Some small departments and colleges on a campus may be hesitant to institute paid leave policies for faculty because of the expensive costs associated with replacing instructional faculty. The University of California system has committed centralized funding (PDF) through its system office in order to reduce bias that other faculty and academic administrators may subtly express. These faculty and administrators should be the gatekeepers in encouraging the usage of leave time. Currently, the Office of the President of the UC system funds both partial leave (or active service-modified duties) and full leave for faculty.