From Monica Green, Arizona State University:
We are probably all returning to busy end-of-semester duties. But before the energy of the weekend in Cleveland completely dissipates, I wanted to throw out for public discussion Conovery Bolton Valencius’s question from the Women’s Historians Breakfast: what effect will the recession have on women in academia?
An editorial in today’s New York Times should give us some food for thought: Mark C. Taylor, “End the University as We Know It.”
Taylor’s issue is with graduate education. I’ve been deeply concerned that the recession will bring the end of tenure. My university (about as far from a unionized institution as you can get) has for some years been letting adjuncts do the bulk of the teaching. Most of them have already been let go this year. I am less concerned with what that means for us tenured faculty (the immediate impact is no TAs or RAs, and a higher teaching load in the long-term) than what it means for anything like stability in academic programs. Taylor suggests that continual renewal of faculties and research agendas will stimulate creativity. But what are the costs?
How this will play out for women in academia I don’t know. Generally, news reports suggest that women are doing better than men in this recession because they are less prominent in fields (like construction) that have been hardest hit. But what can we do proactively now (especially those of us who are in positions of institutional power) to make sure we are not disempowered as the economy (including the knowledge economy) does a “reset”? As Conovery noted, naming the issue is the first step in doing something about it.
Professor of History
Arizona State University
I would second Monica’s comments, but I would also like to direct our attention to an article that specifically addresses gender in higher education–today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed and InsideHighered.com have a report from the MLA “‘Standing Still’ as Associate Profs“–which found that women stay much longer than men at the Associate Professor level before being promoted to full professor. The Inside Higher Ed report also has excellent comments. My thought is this: if we are trying to be feminists in a rcession, we need to be part of the power structure of higher education in general. Inequities will not change until we are in a position to change them.
Charlotte G. Borst, Ph.D.
Professor of History
Rhodes College (on leave, 2008-9)