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V. Evidence of abuse of academic rights and privileges: maintaining an academic climate in which women are at risk of failing, and in which affirmative action goals to employ and promote women are not adequately met.

  The criterion of inappropriate considerations in the appeals process is intended to include consideration of race or gender. My argument here is that a truly effective affirmative action / equal opportunity program must include appropriate considerations of race and gender. Thus, this argument may be more accurately an abuse of academic rights and privileges, but I leave the parties considering my appeal to decide how to categorize the issue discussed below.

 Concerning affirmative action / equal opportunity, the Faculty Staff Handbook makes the following important statements (section 3060):

A. UI pledges to eliminate all vestiges of policy that tended, intentionally or otherwise, to discriminate on the grounds proscribed by federal and state laws and, in order to eliminate all traces of discrimination, to take affirmative action to recruit, employ, and promote qualified members of those groups formerly excluded.

B-2. It is also UI policy not merely to refrain from employment discrimination as required by the various federal and state enactments but to take positive affirmative action to realize full equal employment opportunity for women, ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and Vietnam-era veterans and to increase substantially the numbers of women and ethnic-group members in positions where traditionally they have not been employed.


C-8. Identify and analyze problems inherent in employment of women, ethnic-group members, and persons with disabilities, and establish result-oriented procedures (including numerical goals when appropriate) for the elimination of such deficiencies; provide a detailed program indicating specific steps toward these ends and timetables for the prompt achievement of the goals in accordance with the spirit of the law; and take affirmative action to eliminate problems and to achieve the goals ("goals" are defined by federal higher education guidelines as "not rigid and inflexible quotas which must be met, but . . . targets reasonably attainable by means of applying every good faith effort to make all aspects of the entire affirmative action program work").

D. NON-DILUTION OF STANDARDS. Nothing in this policy requires UI to eliminate or dilute standards that are necessary to the successful performance of its educational and research functions. The affirmative action concept does not require that UI employ or promote any person who is less qualified than another person with whom he or she is competing for a particular position or promotion. The concept does require, however, that any standards or criteria that have had the effect of excluding women, minorities, or persons with disabilities be eliminated, unless UI can demonstrate that such criteria are conditions of successful performance in the particular position involved.

E-4. Finally, it is the responsibility of each and every member of the academic community to assist in achieving the aims of this policy and to make equal opportunity a functioning condition of life at UI.

These are strong statements calling for a proactive approach in affirmative action. At issue is whether the goal is equitable outcome, not just equitable treatment, i.e., substantive justice rather than procedural justice2. I contend that the administrators and faculty of PSES have not made adequate efforts to educate themselves about the problems of women and minorities in science despite a substantial literature on the subject. Thus they are not getting the desired results. Denying me tenure is a step backwards in this effort. Not assigning a mentor as recommended by my third year review within a reasonable time, and not having mentors available who are aware of the issues facing women in science, are contributing factors. PSES is not unusual in this regard; the scientific community generally denies that there is a problem (see for example a controversial essay, The "Problem" of Women in Science: Why Is It So Difficult to Convince People There Is One?’ by Sheila Tobias).  However, I contend that educating faculties in science about the issues is essential to ensure that women and minorities are retained in the system. Thus, failure to take action is ipso facto discriminatory 3.

Here are the facts: In a department of 49 faculty, I am the senior woman of 4 women. It is not a coincidence that I was hired when a woman was Division Chair in Entomology, but she left 2 years after my appointment. Only one other woman faculty member has successfully achieved tenure in this department, in 1994. She had no opposition from commodity groups to contend with.  She subsequently has moved out of the department to an administrative extension position. The other three tenure track women faculty members who are still in the department were hired after 1996. They are scattered around the state, one on campus and the other two at different research centers. I am the first woman faculty member to come up for tenure in PSES since 1994, and only the second to come up for tenure.

As indicated above, there is a substantial literature on the subject of the problems of women and minorities in science. I am probably the only member of my department who is aware of this literature. I am aware because I was a founding member and was actively involved in the Association for Women in Science, East Lansing Chapter at Michigan State University. I attended numerous lectures, symposia, and discussions sponsored by the women’s studies program at MSU. I have published on the subject (Strickler, K. 1987. Women in entomology: Increasing persistence in the pipeline.Bulletin Ent. Soc. Am. 33(1):19-21). I have met many of the people who are active in promoting women and minorities in science and have heard them speak and read their publications.

I call attention to the phenomenon known as the “productivity puzzle.” In my response to Dean Branen’s letter of non-support (appendix 12) I referred to this phenomenon: “Research has shown that women [in science] tend to publish less than men do. The obvious possible explanations, childcare and family commitments, have been ruled out. The best explanation that I have seen of the phenomenon is found in an article in The Scientist that is available on the web: ”. The title of this article tells the story: “Male Scientists Publish More, Women Cited More”. In fact, numerous studies have shown that women publish less than men, although younger women scientists (who probably have had better mentoring and more women role models) are catching up. However, women’s publications are valued more based on citations. I have appended a bibliography with some of the relevant articles on the subject (appendix 14). Also appended is a copy several pages of an excellent book that should be read by all administrators, mentors and faculty in science who deal with women (Sonnert, Gerhard and Gerald Holton, 1995 “Who Succeeds in Science? The Gender Dimension”, Rutgers University Press, NJ; Appendix 15). In explaining the phenomenon, Sonnert and Holton note that women perceive themselves as having a more “perfectionist” style of research and writing. They also note that men scientists are perceived as having a more aggressive, combative and self-promoting style, and that women are more likely to choose subfields and problems that carve out a separate niche for themselves, thus avoiding competition. These factors may also be involved in reducing the numbers of publications for women. My letter of response to Dean Branen (appendix 12) suggests that my empathic style of anticipating reader responses may also contribute, although it improves my publication quality and expands potential readership.

Sonnert and Holton identified another important issue for women in science that they call “synchronizing three clocks”: their biological clock (deciding whether or not and when to have children), their career clock (e.g., the tenure clock), and their spouse’s career clock. This issue was not a factor in my case, though it has been important in at least one recent appeal of tenure and promotion denial at UI; a case in which numbers of publications was also an issue. Related questions of balancing family, friendships, and career, and the isolation involved in my position, all contributed to my illness in 1995-1996 (see letter to Provost Pitcher, appendix 13). Appropriate mentoring can significantly ease these problems.

The importance of mentoring in the success of all scientists, but especially women, is documented by Sonnert and Holton. This insight is well documented in educational literature, and is undoubtedly the reason why the University is asking Departments to establish a mentoring program for new faculty. However, in a department of 4 women out of 50 faculty there are an inadequate number of role models and mentors who, by virtue of direct experience, can help women faculty address issues that are critical to their success such as balancing family, career, and other life issues. Furthermore, since no mentors in the department are aware of the productivity puzzle phenomenon, let alone its possible causes, the chances of effective intervention by a mentor are low. I do not believe that the remedy is simply to make women aware of the need to publish more. I do not experience publication as a process that I can comfortably hasten. If mentoring is to help women like me achieve the standards currently expected by male dominated science departments, it will have to demonstrate how to maintain high standards of research and writing quality in the process.

Alternatively, science departments might re-examine the value of publication counts as a measure of performance: “If women, as a group, tend to have a slightly different publication behavior – less quantity but more quality – a performance measure based chiefly on publication counts may be biased against women” (Sonnert and Holton 1995, p. 154, appendix 15). One cautionary note regarding the possible alternative criterion of counting citations: in my case it would not work well because the audience for articles on alfalfa seed pollination is limited, and the publication record of researchers in this field is traditionally poor. The comments in letters from outside reviewers (appendix 11) attest to the high quality of my publications.

The bottom line for my case is that PSES neglected to assign a mentor to work with me in a timely fashion despite recognition that a mentor was needed. Furthermore, none of the faculty eligible to serve in this role is aware of the special issues that may need to be addressed when mentoring women. No assessment of publication quality was used in evaluating my performance. The result: a system in which women are at risk of not succeeding, and in which affirmative action goals to employ and promote women are not adequately met. back to Parables  
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Bibliography on the Productivity Puzzle