New Policy Grants Male Staff Members At NU Paternity Leave

Laura Schocker

By Laura SchockerThe Daily Northwestern

Beginning this year, Northwestern’s male faculty members will find it easier to take the daddy-track.

The University Provost approved a new child-rearing policy this quarter that enables both men and women to take a quarter off to raise a new-born child.

Until the school adopted its new policy, NU’s official faculty family leave policy consisted of a six-week child-bearing leave exclusively for female faculty members. Now, female faculty will receive a full quarter leave for child-bearing, and they can opt to take an additional quarter off for child-rearing along with their male counterparts. Male and female faculty members can also take a quarter off after adopting a child under the new policy.

Associate provost Jean Shedd said the changes in NU’s family leave policy and the policies of other universities came in response to the nationwide debate sparked by former Harvard President Larry Summers’ comments on women in academia. Several of NU’s peer institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have recently updated their policies to include time off for fathers.

“The policy will help us to help faculty achieve balance,” Shedd said. “It gives the flexibility they need.”

According to a 2003 report from the Chronicle of Higher Education, balance is hard to come by for professors starting families. The report found that many professors start thinking about having families at the same time they start thinking about tenure. The article cited one study that found less than half of female tenured professors were married with children, compared to 70 percent of men.

“You can turn off your tenure clock on maternity leave, but it feels like it’s still ticking,” said Kate Baldwin, an associate professor in the American Studies department.

Baldwin, who currently teaches a class on motherhood and maternity in the Gender Studies department, said she thinks child-rearing should not be solely a women’s issue.

“The university is not immune to the cultural logic that men don’t need paternity leave,” Baldwin said. “You always need someone to go first and take the lead.”

Ari Fisz, an adjunct lecturer in the Legal Studies department, said he thinks NU might have trouble finding a male faculty member to take that lead due to traditional male stereotypes.

“There is generally a stigma for men who take time off and do the Mr. Mom thing,” said Fisz, whose wife is expecting their first child. “But I would have no problem if a male coworker took the leave or even doing it myself. There is nothing more important in this world than your children.”

But Jillana Enteen, associate director of the Gender Studies department, said the policy changes will help fight the stigma.

“Men will be looked upon favorably for taking on their responsibility,” Enteen said. “It’s nice that Northwestern recognizes the equality of men and women in child-raising.”

Kate Masur, an assistant professor in the History department who is on maternity leave this quarter, said the policy is only the first step in recognizing gender equality at NU.

“This is part of an ongoing conversation about what kind of place this is to work,” Masur said. “I think it’s really great that Northwestern is making this a family-friendly place.”

Many of their potential students are ready for the change, as well.

“(Male professors) have loyalties to the school, but that same attention should go to their families,” said Dhaivat Buch, a McCormick sophomore. “It should be equally balanced.”

Reach Laura Schocker at [email protected]