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The Family-Friendly Campus in the 21st Century

Tomorrow's Academy

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Although earlier models saw work-family balance as a women's issue, today's models recognize the importance for parents of both genders to achieve a balance between work and family. 




The posting below gives an excellent summary of past, present, and projected future family-friendly policies in higher education.  It is from Chapter 10, The Family-Friendly Campus in the 21st Century by Margaret Sallee and Jaime Lester in the book Establishing a Family-Friendly Campus: Models of Effective Practice, edited by _Jaime Lester and Margaret Sallee. Published by Stylus Publishing, LLC._22883 Quicksilver Drive. _Sterling, Virginia 20166-2102. ©copyright 2009 by Stylus Publishing, LLC. Al rights reserved.




Rick Reis



Tomorrow's Academia

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The Family-Friendly Campus in the 21st Century


What began as a small movement several decades ago, isolated to a few institutions, has blossomed into a necessary provision that many colleges and universities are compelled to provide in order to attract faculty and staff in a competitive marketplace. The types of policies available to faculty and staff range dramatically from campus to campus. Some provide little more than unpaid leave following the birth of a child; others offer a whole recipe of policies, including paid leave, a reduction in teaching duties, and subsidized childcare. Although we certainly argue that faculty and staff are better served when they have more policies available to_use, such policies may be of little use when there is little institutional support for work-family balance. Rather, as many of the chapters suggest, a successful campus changes its institutional culture to one that values the employee's life demands, both on an off campus. Here, we briefly summarize the changes in the ways in which institutions have thought about work-family balance over the past 50 years along with areas that will receive increasing attention in the decades to come.


Changing Definitions of the Family-Friendly Campus


Although campuses are increasingly expected to be family friendly, such an expectation is relatively recent. As Rosalind Barnett (1999) argues, organizations have moved through three distinct phases of work-family balance.


Although earlier models saw work-family balance as a women's issue, today's models recognize the importance for parents of both genders to achieve a balance between work and family. Barnett characterizes organizations in the 1950s through the early 1970s as adopting a separate spheres model, in which women were intended to keep their family responsibilities separate from their professional responsibilities. Women who worked outside the home were expected to leave their family problems outside work and conform to the male norms of the workplace. Some organizations helped women balance their competing demands, but solely in order to increase workplace productivity.


Over the past several decades, there has been increasing recognition that work and family do not reside in separate spheres, leading organizations to adopt what Barnett (1999) labels the overlapping spheres model. This model characterizes achieving a work-family balance as an issue for both mothers and fathers. This model posits an interdependence of work and life and does not highlight any conflict between the two realms, in marked contrast to the separate spheres model. Despite the rhetoric, organizations have not responded with policies to help employees balance the separate spheres.


Some institutions have adopted a work-life integration model, which operates on the assumption that both male and female employees perform their best when they are involved in multiple spheres. Unlike the separate spheres model, which assumed that women's roles as mothers necessarily conflicted with their roles as employees, the work-life integration model recognizes the interdependence of employees' multiple spheres. An individual's experiences in the home will necessarily impact his or her performance in the office, and vice versa.


A decade age, Barnett (1999) suggested that institutions should abandon their models in favor of a work-life systems framework. In this model, the entire work-life system, not the individual worker, is the unit of analysis. Consequently, organizations are not just concerned with what happens to their employees while at work, but also with their functioning in all aspects of their lives. "Decisions are no longer seen as pitting one person's needs against another's; rather, decisions are made to optimize the well-being of the system" (Barnett, 1999, p.153). According to this model, workers now become central to the operation of the system. Rather than expecting employees to conform to predefined norms, the organization is expected to work with employees to create mutually beneficial practices. The University of Arizona's Life & Work Connections operates under an integrated, hybrid model that provides assistance to staff throughout the life cycle. The office staff provides a range of services to all in the campus community, regularly collaborating across programs to make sure that the needs of the individual are met.


Like the University of Arizona as described by Jung and colleagues (Chapter 3) and the John Hopkins University as outlined by Beauchesne (Chapter 5), other campuses that operate from a systems framework pay attention to the needs of faculty and staff throughout employment. In an ideal world, the campuses would adopt the following practices. To level the playing field, faculty members who have children would be granted some type of assistance to make tenure outcomes more equitable. Such policies would be expanded to address the needs of all faculty on campus. Although achieving tenure removes a significant source of stress for many faculty members, work-life conflicts do not stop at the associate professor level. Many faculty in these positions continue to struggle to balance the demands of work and family. Under the systems model, having and raising a child is not a concern just for the individual faculty member. Instead, it becomes the institution's responsibility to help faculty negotiate the demands of parenthood. Rather than just providing policies that place the onus on faculty, universities can provide resources--such as childcare for young kids or programs for kids of all ages over breaks from school--to allow faculty to integrate their work and family lives. It is our hope that the systems framework becomes the norm across campuses. We now turn from a discussion of past work-family efforts to changes we see on the horizon.


Broadening the Focus of Work-Family Balance


The chapters in this volume highlighted the ways in which colleges and universities have changed their organizational culture to help employees achieve a balance between their personal and professional responsibilities. Certainly some institutions--such as the University of California (Chapter 6) and the University of Washington (Chapter 2)--have a longer history with work-family balance programs that cater to faculty, staff, and students. Other institutions are only beginning to develop programs for faculty; still others are expanding existing policies to incorporate staff and students. The work-family balance movement is gaining increasing acceptance in academe. Many top-tier research institutions offer an array of policies to help recruit and retain faculty. Smaller and less elite institutions are also beginning to offer policies to their own faculty. Over the next several decades, we suggest that the work-family balance movement will continue to change to incorporate new populations, new institutional types, and new policies.


Incorporating New Populations


Typically, tenure-track faculty have been the primary beneficiaries of institutional policies. Programs such as the opportunity to stop the tenure clock and the reduction of teaching duties following the birth or adoption of a child clearly were designed with faculty in mind. However, many institutions offer policies that can be used by all in the campus community. Here we consider how staff, students, and clinical faculty maybe incorporated into work-family balance policies.


As many of the chapters highlighted, staff are eligible for a wide range of programs and policies. For example, the University of Washington offers on-campus childcare slots to both faculty and staff. The University of Arizona provides an array of services, including lactation support to all new parents. Many institutions are also experimenting with flexible work arrangements, allowing staff to configure their work schedules to meet the needs of their office as well as their personal needs at home.


Students have only recently been incorporated into the work-family dialogue. In part, this exclusion was based on the assumption that students had no families or personal responsibilities of their own and were not in need of assistance. As the chapter on graduate students highlighted (Chapter 9), institutions have recently started to provide accommodations for graduate student parents, including leave following the birth or adoption of a child and assistance with childcare. However, such assistance varies wildly by institution. Princeton provides a guaranteed semester of paid leave to birth mothers; Stanford provides 6 weeks of paid leave. Other institutions provide no assistance.


Although graduate students certainly can benefit from more institutional assistance, undergraduate students are neglected. In par, these differences stem from employment status. Graduate students are quasi-employees and therefore receive some institutional aid. Undergraduate students are simply students. Although undergraduates are eligible to use campus-wide programs (such as lactation rooms and childcare), they are simply incorporated into existing programs, rather than having programs designed specifically for them. As the demographics of the undergraduate population continue to shift from those fresh out of high school to returning adults, we suspect that students ell begin to demand more assistance in the work-family arena.


While the undergraduate student population is changing, so is the faculty population. According to the 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, 34% of all faculty are employed part time, and 28% of full-time faculty are not on the tenure track. Institutions are increasingly turning to clinical faculty as a cost-saving measure. Clinical and adjunct faculty receive less pay than their tenure-line (tenure-track and tenured) counterparts. More important, because they are not tenured, their positions may be terminated should the department or institution's needs change. Increasingly, clinical faculty are simply viewed as human capital. They are not eligible for the same types of aid as their tenure-line counterparts, including family-friendly benefits. As institutions continue to increase their reliance on no-tenure-track faculty, they will need to find ways to incorporate all faculty--both tenure and non-tenure-line into the work-family dialogue. Institutions may consider providing a release from teaching duties following the birth or adoption of a child to clinical faculty who have completed a certain number of years of service. The approach will differ by institution. However, campuses must make some effort to assist clinical faculty with achieving a balance between their competing demands, or risk widening the gap between the two types of faculty. For information on how faculty can help to advocate for new policies, see Chapter 8.


Expanding to New Institutional Types


As many of the chapters pointed out, work-family balanced policies have become synonymous with research institutions. All of the winners of the 2006 Sloan Awards for career flexibility were research universities (Chapter 1). Only recently has the foundation expanded its awards to recognize and promote family-friendly policies at master's-granting institutions. (Sloan Awards are in their third round directed to liberal arts colleges--first focused on research universities, second on masters, and third on liberal arts.) The work of a professor at a liberal arts college differs from that at a research university--liberal faculty focus almost exclusively on teaching and service--which creates different concerns regarding career flexibility (Chapter 4). For example, faculty at liberal arts colleges teach more courses (more than four courses a semester), sit on more service committees, and have a greater time commitment to student populations. In the case of illness or the birth or adoption of a child, departments need to find additional adjunct or teaching substitutes, new ways to staff committees, and other faculty to assist with student needs. These requirements create additional burdens on department chairs and other faculty. Moreover, institutions that already rely on many part-time faculty (e.g., community colleges) who are excluded from governance and other service activities create a heavier burden for those few full-time faculty. When a full-time faculty member needs additional accommodations, there are fewer human resources to fill those gaps in teaching and service. Therefore, institutional accommodations need to be designed with these responsibilities in mind.


Developing New Policies


Most institutional policies are designed to help new parents welcome a child into the home. Parental leave, a reduction in teaching duties, and the opportunity to stop the tenure clock are the standard trio of policies provided for faculty at most research institutions. Although certainly new parents--particularly those who have not yet earned tenure--face multiple demands on their time, faculty in all stages of life can benefit from work-family balance policies. Increasingly, institutions are turning their attention across the life cycle to help faculty who are not just caring for new children, but those caring for aging parents. Many institutions, like the University of Arizona and the John Hopkins University, offer elder care programs that help employees develop strategies and identify resources to care for aging parents and other relatives. Institutions may consider introducing policies that provide subsidized short-term and long-term leave for faculty for a variety of life issues, including childbirth, illness, or caring for ill relatives.


In addition to expanding the availability of policies, institutions may also continue to investigate ways to promote flexibility in the workplace. Although faculty members have a great deal of flexibility as to when and where they perform their work, staff members are typically bound by the strictures of the 9-to-5 workweek. Institutions across the country have experimented with flexible work arrangements, including flexibility in the schedule of hours worked, and flexibility in the place of work (Workplace Flexibility 2010, n.d.). For example, some institutions allow employees to work a compressed workweek such as completing four 10-hour days, instead of the traditional five 8-hour days. Other employees have more latitude to arrange their schedule around times mutually agreeable between supervisor and employee. For example, some employees may come in before 8 a.m. and leave before 5 p.m. Still others may take a long break in the middle of the day and work later in the evening. Such arrangements allow employees to attend to their personal needs while simultaneously fulfilling professional responsibilities.


In addition to variability in setting hours, some employees may also choose to reduce the number of hours they work, either by working temporarily part time or by engaging in job sharing. Such options are particularly attractive for those who wish to spend more time with a young child or an ill family member. Finally, particularly during an economic downturn, some institutions permit and even encourage employees to work form home. Such an arrangement not only saves the time and money that arises from commuting, but may also allow employees the flexibility to balance their needs. Regardless of the type, policies that encourage workplace flexibility may ultimately lead to more satisfied employees who can participate in both the domestic and academic spheres.


The Family-Friendly Campus in the 21st Century


What began as a recruiting tool for faculty has become standard policy at many research institutions. As the authors in this book have suggested, family-friendly policies are becoming incorporated into the fabric of institutional culture. Such policies are necessary not only for retaining the best talent, but simply as a matter of necessity. Productive employees can devote time both to their personal and professional obligations.


The chapters in this volume have profiled the best practices in family-friendly campuses across the United States. Chapters have considered practices at a variety of institutions and policies that target faculty, staff, and students. We hope that these practices offer administrators, faculty, and other interested parties a blueprint to begin to work for similar changes on their own campuses.




Barnett, R. C. (1999). A new work-life model for the twenty-first century. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 562, 143-158.


Workplace Flexibility 2010. (n.d.). Flexible work arrangements: The fact sheet.

Retrieved  June  1,  2008  from