Adjunct Positions & Pregnancies Discussion/May 1997


Adjunct Positions & Pregnancies Discussion/May 1997

Query From Kim Nielsen 20 May 1997

I'd like to hear from adjunct and part-time faculty members about how they and their institutions have responded to mid-semester childbearing. Clearly we should be in an age when female academics don't have to try to engineer child-bearing around semester and quarter schedules (which isn't even always possible!). Full-time and permanent faculty have job security and benefits which should make this kind of calendar-counting ridiculous. However, adjunct faculty do not have that kind of security and benefits. And while I have vague memories of earlier list discussion on the (non-economic!) benefits of raising children while teaching adjunct, I don't remember anyone discussing this issue. The lack of job security and benefits (leave as well as financial) but female adjuncts in a tenuous position.


>From Sara Bushy 21 May 1997

For that matter, how about grad students themselves? I have found very different attitudes among different faculty members of different institutions. One told me that having a child mid-semester was not something he felt was advantageous to anyone's program, especially since that particular institution paid very close attention to the calendar and would most likely "mess things up."

What about the awarding of fellowships, assistantships and scholarships? Overall, what kind of message is being sent to women academics at any level?

>From Suzanne Schrems 21 May 1997

In response to Kim's query, I can only say that I have been an adjunct for six years and there are no benefits. In fact, if I am sick they deduct $28.50 for each class hour I miss. Needless to say, there is no maternity leave with pay. If an adjunct takes an extended leave, they will most likely lose their adjunct position to someone with no leave demands.

>From Diana Laulainen-Schein 23 May 1997

Well, I am due in August. Thus I avoided a mid-quarter problem. I am, however, taking off the fall quarter (until January). I did not tell people I was pregnant 'til about half-way through the pregnancy because I was worried about funding decisions that were being considered. Particularly, would a pregnancy cause me to be viewed as less serious about my academics?

After the news was out, my advisor (male, on the verge of retirement, who responded with pure delight when I broke the news to him) told me that I had been wise because the decisions were made by individuals and there would never be any way of telling whether the information swayed a particular person or not. Each individual's thoughts and decisions are their own, etc.

Only one person in the whole department gave me a different reaction. I will never know if letting news out sooner would have mattered, but I just couldn't take the risk. The reaction from faculty and fellow students seems to tell me that there is something to worry about, although it may not be blatant.

Finally, I used this example in teaching my class about what it means to be a feminist. After about 45 minutes of discussion with a room full of students who swore they weren't feminists and didn't agree whatsoever with their principles, I told them my story. The class didn't know I was pregnant until that moment and were outraged that the information was something I felt I had to hide. After telling them that being a feminist means that supporting the idea that issues like these should not matter, most of the class realized that they held more feministic beliefs than they realized. It was an amazing teaching moment, which cannot be duplicated unless I tend to get pregnant on a regular basis as a teaching tool, which I don't!!

>From Darlene Wilson 23 May 1997

The remarks made by Diana Laulainen-Schein about hiding her pregnancy reminded me of an experience I had while still an undergraduate in 1991-92.

My alma mater had a policy of including a student in faculty search committees and thus I ended up on a search for two tenure-track positions in History (we had a resignation mid-search and ended up with three positions to fill). One of the candidates brought to campus for an interview was pregnant and trying desperately to hide it--as a mother myself, I saw the truth and agonized for her, struggling with the rigors of job-looking, traveling, and strange motel rooms, and coping with the bodily changes as well. Then I got angry (and haven't recovered yet) over the smirking put-downs of her by male committee members who hadn't recognized her condition and had assumed that her detachment indicated something less than full commitment to getting a full-time position. When I pointed out there may have been another reason for her detachment (like being in the second trimester of a first pregnancy), one man dismissed me, saying that "Well, she wasn't wearing a ring," and went on to say, that if she were indeed pregnant, she should have told us up-front so we would have known (quote)"NOT TO BRING HER FOR AN INTERVIEW." (unquote). (Sorry for the capital letters, I still get incensed when I think of it!)

>From Maria Elena Raymond 26 May 1997

There is an article in _The Independent Scholar_, Winter 1996-97, Vol. XI, No. 1, entitled, "Addressing the Needs of Part-Time and Adjunct Faculty." I haven't read it, but it may contain something of help. Best wishes.