July
27th 2012
From the mailbag: Enceinte, and doing everyone else’s job for them

Posted under: Gender, jobs, the body, wankers, weirdness, women's history

Today, we have yet another irrational reaction to a pregnant faculty body.  A regular reader writes in on behalf of a colleague:

Hi Historiann!

I’ve got a question I’d like to throw open to your readership.  I have a pregnant colleague who’s due at the very end of the fall semester. We don’t have a paid maternity leave, so her plan is to take sick leave for the last week of classes, if necessary, then use our long winter break as her “maternity leave” and resume teaching in the spring. She’s already worked up syllabi for her fall classes that are structured so the last week or so of meetings are devoted to research presentations, paper workshopping, etc., and can be easily covered by willing colleagues (including myself). And because she’s a responsible person, she decided to tell our department chair and dean about this now, months in advance.

Well. The dean acted like she’d never dealt with this problem before, and was not at all happy with the arrangement. What if my colleague had to take sick leave for more than a week? She should really be prepared to have more than one week covered by colleagues. Moreover, she should rewrite all her syllabi so that the material during those weeks aligned with the specialties of the colleagues she intended to cover for her. (Note: she’s the only person in our department in her field, though plenty of us would be competent to pinch hit in her area for a class meeting or two.) The dean seems very concerned about any possible unfairness, surprises, etc., to our students.

Am I right in thinking this is straight-up gender discrimination? It seems to me that the burden of preparing for every possible contingency should not fall on my colleague. If she came down with a sudden illness in the middle of the semester, we’d have to cope, with no pre-existing plan in place. And if she had a permanent disability that affected her mobility, say, not accommodating those needs would violate the ADA.

My advice would be to say “gender discrimination” and “lawyer”–but I’m not the one who has to make the stand. So I’d love any additional thoughts or advice.

Signed,

I Can’t Fucking Believe This Is Still A Problem

Dear I Can’t Fucking Believe This Is Still A Problem,

I can’t fucking believe that you are asking this question, either!  Why is it that so many department chairs and administrators treat pregnancy as a heretofore completely unknown and unexpected medical event?  I agree that it’s a problem effectively to define pregnancy as an illness by making those recovering from pregnancy take sick leave.  But, in theory, shouldn’t the benefit of taking sick leave mean that you’re treated just like anyone else who needs sick leave to recover from an accident, surgery, or major medical problems?  Instead, your dean is putting an utterly unfair burden on your colleague, who is an untenured Assistant Professor and therefore among the least well-equipped person in the university to deal with this.

Because your colleague has decided not to take any extra leave time, and instead is planning to use the sick leave time she is entitled to, I’ll focus on that instead of dreaming up ways that she might get more time than winter break for her recovery and adjustment to her new life circumstances.  First things first, right?

What I wonder is:  where your chair is in all of this?  Why does the dean get to express an opinion as to how specifically a professor and her colleagues are pitching in to solve a problem instead of just solving the problem herself?  (Honestly, your dean sounds like kind of a nut who doesn’t have good judgment about what’s in her wheelhouse versus stuff she doesn’t have to worry about.)

Why do universities continue to expect pregnant women–and usually, their women colleagues–to solve these problems for free for them?  I’m starting to feel a little foily on this one, friends:  maybe they’re thinking that if they just refuse to develop and follow reasonable policies that finally people will stop asking?  (In which case, I think they must be confused about what exactly is the point of policies and procedures.  Having a policy means that you can stop asking and just follow the policy, right?)  As you point out, chairs and deans regularly solve personnel problems in cases where there’s an illness, resignation, or other emergency that means that a class needs some temporary coverage.  But for some reason, pregnancy puts the zap on everyone’s brains.

First, read your faculty manual’s sick leave policy.  I’m assuming that it does not say “ask the dean if she approves of how you’ve designed your syllabus around your pre-planned use of sick leave time.”  Second, you and your colleagues should approach your chair with this policy and point out the ways in which your chair and dean have ignored or violated said policy, if they have, and what they need to do to rectify this.  (Depending on your department, your executive committee might be a better venue for addressing this situation.  In any case, it should certainly be alerted to what’s going on.)  If the sick leave policy outlines a clear means by which a sick person’s courses will be covered and whose budget will bear the burden, then you can just insist that your chair and dean RTFM and cope.

(Ordinarily I would advise your pregnant colleague to do this.  However, you and your colleagues who have agreed to cover her classes while she is out have been brought into this situation.  Furthermore, some of you might conceivably need sick leave at some point, so this is clearly a policy question that the whole department will want to be clarified.  So I believe it is reasonable in this case for you to insert yourselves.)

If, however, the manual does not specify a clear process and guarantor of the money needed to solve this problem, you and your colleagues need to present your chair with a plan for how those of you covering your colleague’s classes will be compensated for the additional work you’re doing.  You should remind your chair that all ze has to do now is pay you, because you and your colleagues have pre-solved the problem for everyone.  Try to get the chair on your side in this, and then insist that ze take your analysis of the faculty manual to the dean and ask her for funds to help with compensating you.  (It seems fair to ask a department and a dean to share the costs of extra compensation.  Since we’re talking probably only a couple of thousand bucks max, ask them to toss the extra money into your research/travel accounts, so that you can use the extra dough tax-free.)

And finally, your chair needs to take this ad-hoc policy to the next dean’s meeting of all of the chairs in your college, and propose that this policy (or another one) needs to get written into the sick leave portion of the faculty manual.  Because I don’t want to hear from I Can’t Fucking Believe This Is A Problem Again! the next time someone else in your uni has a bun in the oven, or a bike accident, or a MCI.

Money is just about the most  useful and versatile substance there is for solving most of life’s problems.  The crying shame of it all is that we make every pregnant young proffie reinvent the wheel, when it’s such a cheap and easy problem to solve.  You and your colleagues are good eggs who just need to go the extra mile now so that you’re not dealing with no policy or dumb policy for the rest of your careers.

Readers:  as the sign says, it’s your turn now:  fire away!  What advice do you have for our friend and her pregnant colleague?

34 Comments »

34 Responses to “From the mailbag: Enceinte, and doing everyone else’s job for them”

  1. Northern Barbarian on 27 Jul 2012 at 8:18 am #

    gawd almighty! About ten years ago the women on our faculty re-wrote our vague policy, and found the following:

    New York state treats childbirth as a short-term disability, as though you had a car wreck. This is a legal requirement, but my snooty little SLAC tends to forget that the law applies to us as well. Don’t trust your administrators, but check what your state laws say yourself.

    Chairs and deans wing it rather than reading what the faculty handbook actually says. Our old policy specified that pregnant women approach the dean first, as chairs can be too focused on immediate department needs and don’t see the bigger picture. Nobody knew that, since nobody had read the rules in years. So we had a cheerful, supportive, and totally clueless gay man tell a visitor who was due to give birth on the first day of classes that he was confident she could be back in class by the end of the week. Be prepared to shove the rulebook under people’s noses.

    We still tell expectant parents (now fathers too) to go to the dean first, but that depends on the size of your institution. What your faculty needs to do, if it hasn’t already done so, is to try to create a leave procedure that does not depend on the good will and common sense of individuals. Procedure may be soulless and mechanical, but it is also much less arbitrary.

    Why do administrators act as though pregnancy is a rare and evil plot against them? I swear I almost felt like I (a lesbian) had to explain to our dean (father of two) how the process worked!

  2. Historiann on 27 Jul 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Thanks, Northern Barbarian–this is really useful advice.

    I completely agree with this: “What your faculty needs to do, if it hasn’t already done so, is to try to create a leave procedure that does not depend on the good will and common sense of individuals. Procedure may be soulless and mechanical, but it is also much less arbitrary.”

    RTFM!!! And then supplement with a new policy if necessary.

  3. Susan on 27 Jul 2012 at 9:04 am #

    I get so angry about the ways pregnancy (and adoption) -related leaves get handled in such a f***ed up and arbitrary way by so many administrators. I don’t have any particular advice to offer here beyond what’s already been said, but I have an additional question: where are the institutions where people get paid for pitching in to cover leaves of a sick colleague? I’ve never seen that happen, unless a person took so much leave that another instructor became the instructor of record. But pitching in for a few weeks here and there? That’s been totally volunteer–and usually women volunteering–in my experience.

  4. dishes and laundry on 27 Jul 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Oh for Pete’s sake. Last time I looked it was 2012, and women – and mothers – were almost considered real people and not something sad and shameful.

    Problem with having colleagues guest teach/babysit her class/blah blah blah for a fookin’ week???? Or a bit more??????

    I learned a great deal from random pinch hitters. Fresh perspective, different point of view, and maybe just a break from the same talking head.

    Yes, you should be mad.

  5. truffula on 27 Jul 2012 at 9:39 am #

    I have been in the situation Dean Freakout imagines. My due date was right before spring break but I went into labor about 7 weeks early and that was that. You know what my colleagues did? They pitched in to fill the gap. They modified syllabi on the fly–they are professionals, you know, they can handle it–and everything kept rolling along. When I called my chair from the hospital, ze read me the riot act for worrying about them. We’ll figure it out, ze said, take care of yourself.

    I did go back to teaching the next term. One person resented the sudden adjustment (but even ze played along).

  6. ej on 27 Jul 2012 at 9:51 am #

    While I applaud her colleagues for being willing to pitch in, I fear the implications of such “volunteer” actions. What if the due date were earlier in the semester? Too early to have multiple people step in and still have a coherent class. Wouldn’t they have had to replace her then?

    Why can’t they cover this with a paid adjunct? Then no one can be resentful, and if problems do arise, no one is further inconvenienced, including the students.

    I say this after very carefully planning two maternity leaves around my teaching schedule, one of which ended with the due date being moved up 6 weeks, the second with me being put on bed rest 4 months in. Even the best laid plans can go awry. This type of ad hoc arrangement seems dangerous to me.

    The chair should get involved here and insist that HR step up. I never understood why I had all that sick leave accrued when I was never able to take it. If you cannot perform you duties, the university needs to find someone that can. And pay them.

  7. Historiann on 27 Jul 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I think you’re right that paying an adjunct to cover a longer sick leave is the right solution in other cases. However, in this case, the pregnant person has volunteers lined up–I just think that they shouldn’t be treated like volunteers, but instead compensated for their work.

    You bring up a good point, ej: it’s not a bad idea to go to HR first in order to be clear on what you’re entitled to and maybe to get some information as to how other departments have handled sick leaves in the recent past. HR is liklier to have a handle on the actual policy, as well as the raw numbers of how much sick leave one is entitled to.

  8. quixote on 27 Jul 2012 at 10:30 am #

    I don’t have anything useful to add. Just aaaargh. I love this attitude (Not) that producing the next generation of human beings is a female problem. Something women would stop doing if they weren’t so frivolous and weak.

    It’s fun to imagine all women, everywhere, calling their bluff and deciding to “let George do it.”

  9. Northern Barbarian on 27 Jul 2012 at 10:36 am #

    A key part of our policy is that if a woman is due during the semester, she is relieved of “primary course supervision” for the entire semester surrounding the birth. She can do advising and perhaps team-teaching if she works things out with her colleagues, but that way we avoid class disruption due to the contingencies of pregnancy. If she gives birth outside of a regular semester, she can take the following semester off as a parental leave (no salary or retirement benefits, but full health insurance coverage, as opposed to the maternity leave which is with full pay and benefits).

  10. Indyanna on 27 Jul 2012 at 10:55 am #

    “… any possible unfairness, surprises to our students…” Wow, students are being prepared for long, putatively “productive” lives off-syllabus, aren’t they? The expensive stooges they haul in to give commencement speeches often laud the quality of surprise in life, even the potential long-run benefits of unfairness. It kind of shocks the conscience that an episode that’s projected to produce at most a ripple in the last week of a fourteen-week experience would even come to the attention of a dean. Maybe some major will be finding hirself listening raptly to a “substitute” instructor who ze has spent three years energetically avoiding because someone in the first week of freshman year said “don’t take…” Maybe that student will learn to devalue such glib punditry and it will make a lifelong difference in how ze manages hir choices. How ’bout a little *up*side speculation in the dean’s office, while dutifully listing all the things that could go horribly wrong if labor kicks in early and it becomes *two* whole weeks of ad lib?

    When a dean wants to “align” anything with anything else, that’s when I drop everything and run for my life. You all got faculty handbooks? I’ve always assumed mine is still sitting in a dusty mailroom at the place where I was fellowshipping the year I signed on. What kinds of stuff do they cover?

  11. joellecid on 27 Jul 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    As someone who is currently dealing with this — due in three weeks, with a school with no maternity policy at all — this hits home. My institution takes it on a case by case basis, even though many have asked for a policy to be spelled out. We do it through FMLA and acquired sick leave. Since I’ve been around for ten years, I have enough to cover 12 weeks of FMLA which will leave about a month on the end. In order to deal with that, I’ve been given extra service work to do and my chair has been asked to lie and say that it will be equivalent to the full-time work I’d do anyway. It’s beyond frustrating. But the school will pay for the adjuncts to take over my courses. I am simply lucky to have an accommodating chair who cares about female faculty and is willing to make sure that things work out.

    People should definitely be compensated if they take on extra work, and pregnancy should be treated neither as an illness nor as a burden. It’s not as if women in the professional workforce is something new… ARGGGHHH!

    I think that the assistant professor above is being incredibly obliging and that it is great to see faculty coming to her aid. I don’t know if she needs a lawyer, but if there are other faculty and departments (and there likely are) who have been treated equally awfully by the dean, they should think about working together for change in the future. Every school (including mine) should have a leave policy. It’s one of the issues I’ll be taking up with Faculty Council next year.

  12. Perpetua on 27 Jul 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    This is not particularly helpful to the OP and ze’s problem, but I’ve always felt like the best response to these kinds of situations is to saddle up the FMLA (most people at most universities qualify for FMLA) – say, I’m taking a week or two on FMLA and there isn’t a damn thing any of you can do about it. PS, it’s not my responsibility to find “volunteers” to cover my classes in cases of personal or medical emergencies. Sounds like the department’s/ administration’s problem. Too bad you don’t have a policy. (I think setting up substitutes in lieu of cancellations is a favor the prof does, not a requirement – you wouldn’t ask someone in a critical emergency to be texting fellow faculty while being wheeled in for surgery.) I was planning to use the nuclear FMLA option when I was getting grief about my leave – my FMLA would have started the moment the semester began and I would have showed up 12 weeks in, perfectly happy to pick up my classes again for the last three weeks, but without having done any coordinating in advance. If you, as an administrator, think that doesn’t work, then give faculty the entire term off, or let them team teach (maybe with a graduate student or adjunct) or what have you.

    The whole idea that a dean would get up in someone’s grill about a week of substitutes is beyond absurd. Preterm labor should be considered the same as any totally unforeseen medical emergency. A week of absence due to personal reasons, etc, should be dealt with by canceling classes while students work on independent research projects/ group projects. A friend of mine is going out basically in the later-middle part of a semester, and is planning to have the students work on an independent project that entire time (4 weeks). The dean in the OP’s post is being a monumental d*ck, and I think the pregnant woman’s biggest mistake was telling anyone at all about her syllabus. (But I’m not blaming the victim, here!) We make informal arrangements with each other all the time for a variety of reasons. My partner had colleagues cover a week of classes (which, obviously is between 1-3 classes, hardly some major thing) when I had our baby (because we don’t live in the same state); no one batted an eye.

    As almost everyone has noted, the solution to this is a policy. Period. It is outrageous that people act like maternity/paternity leaves can be handled on an ad hoc basis, without any equality or transparency. At the same time, I can’t believe (though I totally believe it) that there’s a dean or chair or colleague out there who thinks that a week or a week and a half of classes being cancelled or substituted is a BFD.

  13. nicoleandmaggie on 27 Jul 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Just went through this … she needs to fill out her FMLA paperwork. My department has been nice about this stuff, but they really really wanted me to fill out the FMLA stuff as soon as possible because that means that it is illegal for the board of regents etc. to question my use of sick leave or to kick up a fuss about anything. It allows my chair and dean to say, “FMLA, our hands are tied.”

    My poor chair actually tried to use me as a case to get a standardized policy for our college this time around, or at least for our department … but after talking with some higher-level administrators that got shot down (really completely squashed) and we had to do another ad-hoc modified duties thing… which is waaay better than what I had 5 years ago (nothing– not covered by FMLA, no sick leave), but still makes people at more civilized institutions cringe.

    In terms of the comments about volunteering and compensation… last time I traded lectures with other professors and made up for it when they had to be out of town for conferences, etc. (Or would have, if there hadn’t been a freak snowstorm canceling class for a week. I also had a librarian come in and give a guest lecture.) When I was born many years ago, my mom had to pay for her own substitute out of pocket. When my sister was born on a different coast, the uni paid for her sub.

  14. Historiann on 27 Jul 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    FMLA sounds like it’s a great idea. At least, it sounds like several of you have used it to gain a “zone of legal privacy” as it were so that you could then pursue local strategies like sick leave for getting paid for at least part of your time away from the job.

    At the very least, the pregnant lady in this post might be able to use it to wash her hands of whatever happens to her classes while she’s on leave!

    The excessive worry about the students’ experience of someone else’s pregnancy and delivery is really striking. I appreciate the comments from several of you about this–especially Indyanna’s thoughts. He’s right: who knows what might make for an interesting or useful (or at least memorable) moment in their college educations? Maybe one of her students will decide to become a labor or union lawyer with expertise in sex discrimination cases as a result of seeing her professor struggle with these issues.

    Heh.

  15. Janice on 27 Jul 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    Definitely I’d hope that the chair steps in to say that this can’t be solved by more creative syllabus-wrangling (‘I know the class was supposed to be about Colonial America but the last two weeks will be all about 20th century political and cultural world history, enjoy!’) in order to make the dean feel better.

    If the dean feels this is inadequate, the dean can cough up the funds to cover the leave with an adjunct or adjuncts (or pay to the volunteer colleagues). Of course, if the dean’s anything like mine, the dean has no discretionary funding to do so and should start knocking on the VP’s door.

    We’ve had two catastrophic interruptions with illness or injury to colleagues while I’ve been on faculty. In both cases, the current faculty came together to fill the gap and take over. We’re grown-ups and professionals. Unless it’s an issue of a course requiring a particular professional accreditation that other faculty don’t have, we can cover different stuff in our disciplines. Trust us, deans!

  16. koshembos on 27 Jul 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    List of awfuls:
    1. Pregnancy is a surprise.
    2. No policy on pregnant profs
    3. No maternity leave
    4. No one can substitute for 1-3 weeks (what happen when a dude prof need a bypass)?
    5. No ability to solve problems
    6. Are all chairs monkeys? (Not mine)

  17. Susan on 27 Jul 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Geez.
    I just spent the afternoon listening to a general counsel for a college discussing legal issues, and ze was very clear on FMLA. What everyone says is true. I think Northern Barbarian’s point is particularly important. Depending on where this college is, there may be state law that intervenes. And even private colleges are bound by state law.

    I wonder if the dean has children? Back in 1968, one of my colleagues had to pay a substitute to take her classes while she gave birth: even at a woman’s college, they had no maternity leave policy. Looks like groundhog day.

  18. Notorious Ph.D. on 27 Jul 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    And if the dean doesn’t like the arrangement, then what does he (please tell me it’s a he) expect her to do? Just hold it in the extra week?

  19. Historiann on 27 Jul 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Nope. The dean is a woman. Sorry!

  20. LadyProf on 27 Jul 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Administrators love not having a policy because it gives them a boatload of power. If they like the pregnant woman, they can pile on the favors and make her feel grateful; if they don’t like her, they can pretend there’s nothing they can do. Please, if you can, try to install a pregnancy leave policy where you work— even if you think nobody needs it.

  21. Feminist Avatar on 27 Jul 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    I’m the only one who would have been really tempted when in that conversation with the Dean to go: well, in that case, I need you to cover my classes next week while I recover from my mid-term abortion. Cheers.

    Taking my tongue out of my cheek, I would agree that asking a pregnant person, who is taking sick leave, to do anything extra to prepare for that sick leave that an ill person wouldn’t have to do, could be construed as gender discrimination. And, this is where a maternity policy could benefit an institution because it could require pregnant people to give a certain amount of notice to allow cover to be arranged, in a way that you can’t demand from a ‘sick’ person, who would be in their rights to not mention the illness/pregnancy until the day they take off work. ‘I’m sorry it turns out this wasn’t weight gain after all…’

  22. OP on 27 Jul 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Hi all, and thanks! I’m the original poster here — I was out of town for a couple of days, during which time you’d better believe I brought my union contract along for some fun travel reading.

    This is all really, really helpful, and I’ll pass it along to my colleague, esp. the advice about FMLA and talking to HR. I, at least (I don’t know about her), had been under the impression that FMLA was something separate and additional that one might take for maternity leave if sick leave weren’t sufficient; I didn’t realize the additional protections that it sound like it gives.

    It’s also struck me in the past few days that one additional area of outrageousness is the dean’s medding in individual departmental curricular matters. Um, most of our courses meet particular requirements within the major. If a different faculty member were to be required to take over the class and tailor half the syllabus to his or her own specialty. . . it quite possibly wouldn’t fulfill the original requirement. That’s not the biggest issue here, of course, but it might be helpful to raise in talking with our chair (who is lovely, but who just assumed the chairpersonship a few weeks ago & thus who doesn’t have prior experience dealing with such requests — or with deanly nonsense).

  23. Feminist Avatar on 28 Jul 2012 at 2:17 am #

    Derailing this slightly, but it occurs to that it really is appalling to not have a maternity leave policy; it’s just fundamentally necessary to the modern workplace. When did it become ok to be a bad employer? It used to be a matter of pride to be a good employer, to have good benefits and to be seen to care for your workers. Yet, increasingly, there seems to be an attitude of employers should treat employees as badly as they can get away with in the name of capitalism; anything else is seen as soft or not business-like enough. And, perhaps, we need a discourse change. So, when you go to your Dean and there is no policy, we should shake our heads and say ‘that’s disgusting isn’t it?; really despicable that this institution cares so little for its female employees’. And when they blame higher up the ladder, we reply ‘I don’t know how any one with a conscience could put up with this; perhaps you should put in an official complaint with the higher-ups’. Etc. Make it like a maternity policy isn’t so much a benefit as a necessity that embarrases your institution not to have. Instead of rationality, perhaps we need a little bit of shaming going on.

  24. cgeye on 28 Jul 2012 at 2:31 am #

    This is why they can get away with such nonsense: Because female thought leaders give them permission:

    “Still, the heavyweight questions that go beyond simple questions of money inevitably arise when a story like Ms. Mayer’s pops up. Is it progress for high-profile women to willingly forgo their right to a maternity leave? Or, by making maternity leave yet another victim of our always-on culture, does it send the message that taking true time off is only for the uncommitted?”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/fashion/for-executive-women-is-maternity-leave-necessary.html

  25. Lady Historian on 28 Jul 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Several have suggested that women faculty/administrators have and/or should create this policy. Ugh! Given that no woman has ever gotten pregnant on her own (sorry Mary!), I wonder why men aren’t also asked to be engaged in the process of policy making. It’s like asking People of Color to create antiracist policies when they didn’t create and don’t benefit from racism.

  26. Historiann on 28 Jul 2012 at 9:38 am #

    I don’t think anyone here is suggesting that women faculty and administrators are the only people responsible for this. My advice to I Can’t Fucking Believe was just that she and her colleagues need to take charge of this on behalf of their pregnant colleague and themselves.

    It certainly is not the responsibility only of women. However, this needs to get done in I Can’t Fucking Believe’s department now, and she and her colleagues are the ones on the hook for getting it done (or at least starting the ball rolling), so far as I can tell.

  27. tinfoil hattie on 28 Jul 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Sigh. Pregnancy, childbirth, and the actual raising of children: Damn, that’s unusual. Why do women keep messing things up for “the rest” of society?

  28. Doctor Cleveland on 28 Jul 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    “The world must be peopled.”

    This, really, should not be a difficult concept.

  29. Comradde PhysioProffe on 28 Jul 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    I don’t have any useful advice to give, as my institution does have a very explicit and detailed set of policies for maternity and other family/health leaves. I am surprised, however, that any university doesn’t have such a policy. (This surprise is, obviously, a reflection of my own ignorance and privilege.)

  30. Z on 28 Jul 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Yes. Also, something I have learned is that when you are going to make informal arrangements as this professor has done, you should in fact NOT tell anyone.

    I had a colleague with this exact situation and nobody found out that she wasn’t giving finals, but having papers due the last week of classes, until after the fact. Men regularly do the same to get to a conference or whatever during finals week if they need to. Next year, I am teaching in study abroad and, not by my choice, it is starting the day after graduation. Since they, not I, insist it start so soon, I will not get any breathing time unless I decide not to give finals, and to have final papers due the last week of classes. I might even make them due the next to last week, and have presentations and consultation/paper returning in the last week. If anyone finds out and objects, the deed will already have been done, and it is easier to apologize than to get permission.

  31. truffula on 29 Jul 2012 at 12:26 am #

    Telling or not telling is situational, of couse. Not all students are tolerant of deviations from standard practice or may try to use a deviation as an arguing point when given a grade they don’t like. University rules include specific requirements about class meetings. When somebody complains to the department head about whatever has gone on, it can be helpful if the head has a clue. At least I feel that way. The silver lining is that students tend to complain via email, which gives me time to gather facts, but I really don’t like to be caught off guard. Again, this depends in the relationship you have with your department head.

  32. Z on 29 Jul 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Here’s my contrarian view: if your relationship with head is good, you can tell them what you are doing because that is part of the good relationship. But if not, whatever you do will be used against you or to obstruct you, so apologizing later, if there are objections, is easier than getting permission earlier so they can really mess with you!

    I’m not threatening to miss class, just not give finals. People do this all the time. And I have never done this, but if I had a substitute teaching part of my class or some other change in format, I would go easy on grades in the first place for that reason.

    Of course it is true, you should not surprise department heads. I am just saying — notice how telling the head did the person in question no good.

  33. Shelley on 30 Jul 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    Here’s what works.

    College administrators understand only two words:

    Law.
    Suit.

    Sometimes just the words are enough.

  34. Leslie on 02 Aug 2012 at 10:00 am #

    @ cgeye – I have really mixed feelings about the Mayer story; at the very least, I hope that her optimism about the way her pregnancy and birth proceed isn’t unfounded. There were two things that stuck out at me in the NY Times story linked. First, with sufficient money, just about anything is possible: working from home with the baby in the next room with the nanny, having a large enough house for one’s entire extended family, not having to fly commercial…. Second, it really is a different ball game with the second child. All I can really say about my maternity leave with my second child is that I wasn’t teaching and wasn’t expected to keep up with email until my modified duties kicked in. With a four year old in the house, I sure wasn’t enjoying quiet bonding time.

    Overall, I’m surprised that there’s not even a policy in place at the unnamed institution for short-term disability leave. That seems to be a default in places without a more generous maternity leave. The resource for information about that is HR, not any college administrator. Problem is–back to money again–here, at least, there’s a substantial pay cut involved, and not every family can afford that.

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