[Parentsgroup-list] family-friendly policies, GSAS?

Diego Miranda miranda at fas.harvard.edu
Sat Mar 4 14:10:23 EST 2006


Christine,

> Have you both taken leaves of absence, or was your extra time just part of
> not taking a leave and having kids?  There is a difference between the
> registrar's year and your year in residence, if you've taken leave.  For

I have been continually registered, for I was/am indeed working on my
dissertation.  Besides, I do not see how taking an absence could improve a
graduate student's situation.  Due to federal regulations, when a student
takes a leave of absence, s/he does not qualify for financial aid that
year, and worse, existing loans go into repayment.  When my kids
were born, in any case, I was registered as a travelling scholar, with
external (ie, not Harvard) funding.  We had our kids before Harvard began
talking about implementing family-friendly policies, 6 and 4 years ago,
whatever they are.  Worth mentioning, my wife was also a full time
doctoral student at the time.

However, from what was said before I understood that

> > Even if you didn't take a leave, Cynthia also very emphatically stated
> > that of COURSE they will take into account the fact that you had baby!
> > (or other major issues) and that you should absolutely not be afraid of
> > mentioning this on applications.

Afraid, I was not, but my mentioning it has been to no avail, so far. In
any case, my email was just to confirm that what Diana was talking about
is not apparently being debated, but a fact.  I have been officially
informed by my department chair and the DGS that:

>> GSAS has asked us to improve the timing of the completion of the
>> doctoral degree. We are asked to record and to report on graduate
>> student progress through general exams, dissertation proposal defenses,
>> and completion. Dean Skocpol has announced this as a priority reform. It
>> will be enforced by reducing the number of students the Department can
>> admit each year, for every few students we have G8 and above. For
>> graduate students, the rule will be enforced by restricting dissertation
>> writing grants to students who are in G8 or above.

As per these new rules improving my chances of being a TF, I do not see
how that can help me, academically speaking, for two reasons.

a) I do not need that kind of help.  In general, professors like to hire
experienced TFs. In  my particular case, I have always been offered
more sections than I could take. And I usually pick what, for whom and how
much to teach. Other students in my department also seem to have no
problem finding TF work. And yes, the governemnt department has also almost
doubled in size during the last 5-6 years.

b) I do not consider that working as a TF is funding.  TFing is work, and
that is good, for it pays (part of) the bills, but to pretend it is
helping anybody to finish faster is disingenious, at best.

> Also, would the new rules apply retroactively, or just for new students?
> Perhaps (if they've thought about it) they are recognizing that part of
> the reason student parents can take so long to graduate is the lack of
> institutional support.

While Harvard doesn't seem to apply benefits retroactively (for instance,
offering full funding for new students, irrespective of need), it seems to
have no problem whatsoever applying restrictive policies retroactively. So take a
wild guess...

> My sense is that they are trying to deal with the people
> who just sort of disappear after year 8--to force each dept to stay on top
> of people who might be wandering for unknown reasons, rather than to force
> student parents out of grad school.

Yes, I agree.  But that doesn't mean that these policies do not contradict
the (very very) incipient family-friendly policies that I am being told
are now implemented by Harvard University.  I don't mean to complain.  But
even though I would love to find out that there really is a family
friendly policy in place, I do not like to delude myself, either.
Nor do I like to allow a pretense of good conscience flourish where there
is, to my understanding, none.


>
> --Christine
>
>
>
> On Sat, 4 Mar 2006, Diego Miranda wrote:
>
> > That pressure is already being excercised, FYI, via official letters from
> > the Government Department, at least. According to such letters, what you
> > describe as being debated is already a fact, Diana.  Furthermore, it is
> > asserted that no funding will be available for g7+.
> >
> > I have seen how Harvard's incipient family-friendly policies combine with
> > the g7+ policies, and it seems to me they do not match at all.  Surprise
> > surprise.
> >
> > As for that extra year (2 in my case?) well... I am still trying to see
> > what that means in reality.  So far it hasn't meant anything.
> >
> > Diego
> >
> > On Sat, 4 Mar 2006, Diana Ramirez wrote:
> >
> > > Remember how good the talk surrounding the 'extra year' for students who
> > > need to work at a reduced rate due to pregnancy or the need care for small
> > > children sounded back in December?
> > >
> > > Aparently, Dean Skocpol, while emphasizing that we 'get this extra year' is
> > > now also proposing a new regulation to reduce the number of G8+ students.
> > > According to the representative for my department (architecture and urban
> > > planning) attending Monday's GSC meeting, there was mention that "If this
> > > proposal is accepted, the number of offers that a department can make will
> > > be reduced by the number of its G8+ students. Translation: if a department
> > > typically admits four students but has two who are G8+, it will only be able
> > > to make two offers that year. This has not yet been approved, but it is
> > > being debated."
> > >
> > > Which seems to mean that even when in theory our 'thesis clock' can be
> > > stopped during pregnancy or while caring for small children, in practice it
> > > could actually be prevented from clicking past the 7th year. And of course,
> > > I can also imagine departmental pressure being exerted over those who take
> > > this "extra" year without officially stopping the clock...
> > >
> > > Has anyone heard from Skocpol or other officials at GSAS about how their
> > > incipient family-friendly policies might combine with the g8+-unfriendly
> > > ones?
> > >
> > > Diana
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > from Christine Dianne Wenc
> > > > <wenc at fas.harvard.edu> -----
> > > >     Date: Thu, 22 Dec 2005 10:05:56 -0500 (EST)
> > > >     From: Christine Dianne Wenc <wenc at fas.harvard.edu>
> > > > Reply-To: Christine Dianne Wenc <wenc at fas.harvard.edu>
> > > >  Subject: Re: [Parentsgroup-list] seeking fellowship proposal advice
> > > >       To: Jenny Kirsten Ataoguz <jksmith at fas.harvard.edu>
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > A few answers to this question:
> > > >
> > > > 1. The one benefit we actually have here officially is the ability
> > > > to stop
> > > > the 'thesis' clock when we have kids.  From the 2004-05 GSAS Handbook
> > > > (everyone gets one every year at registration), p. 51:
> > > >
> > > > "The department's 'thesis clock' should stop for students who take
> > > > maternity or parental leave, as well as for students who must work
> > > > at a
> > > > reduced rate because of pregnancy or the need to care for small
> > > > children,"
> > > > as well as for other personal and family difficulties.
> > > >
> > > > 2.  Dean Skocpol explicitly emphasized at that meeting that we get
> > > > this
> > > > extra year.  If anyone in your dept. is not aware of this and is
> > > > telling
> > > > you otherwise, they can talk with her, or just show them the handbook.
> > > >
> > > > 3.  Both Cynthis Verba (dir. of fellowships) and Rise Shepsle (the
> > > > person
> > > > who approves leaves) emphatically emphasized the flexibility of your
> > > > official G year.  In fact, they actually record it in 2 ways, with
> > > > your
> > > > real year in parentheses if you take a leave.  For me, for
> > > > instance, I'm a G5 (G4).  I'm a G5 in calendar years, but a G4 in
> > > > residence.
> > > >
> > > > Even if you didn't take a leave, Cynthia also very emphatically stated
> > > > that of COURSE they will take into account the fact that you had a
> > > > baby!
> > > > (or other major issues) and that you should absolutely not be
> > > > afraid of
> > > > mentioning this on applications.  (I mean, I wouldn't go on at
> > > > length about all your trials and tribulations, but just state the
> > > > facts.)  Again, if your advisor or someone in
> > > > your dept. is telling you otherwise, the best way to clear this up
> > > > would
> > > > be to just make an appointment with Cynthia and talk with her.
> > > > She's very
> > > > accessible
> > > > and helpful--her full-time job, after all, is to help students with
> > > > grant
> > > > applications.  And perhaps she could set the record straight with
> > > > whoever
> > > > is telling you otherwise.
> > > >
> > > > My feeling is that plenty of people, even those who award grants, have
> > > > kids.  They will be extra impressed to see how good your work is
> > > > AND that
> > > > you also had a baby in the middle of it, and they are not going to
> > > > fall
> > > > apart when they realize you are a year or so behind.
> > > >
> > > > Cynthia Verba's email is cverba at fas.harvard.edu.
> > > >
> > > > By the way, what dept. are you in, Kirsten?  I wonder sometimes if the
> > > > sciences are not as open to this stuff as the humanities.
> > > >
> > > > Christine
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > On Thu, 22 Dec 2005, Jenny Kirsten Ataoguz wrote:
> > > >
> > > >> dear All,
> > > >> One of the messages on this list, describing a meeting with Dean
> > > >> Skopcol,
> > > >> includes the following:
> > > >>
> > > >> "Cynthia Verba, who is the Director of Fellowships, really
> > > >> emphasized that
> > > >> if something major happens to you that affects your G year, it is
> > > >> absolutely
> > > >> fine to indicate this on any applications."
> > > >>
> > > >> I never took any time off for the birth of my daughter and have
> > > >> even been
> > > >> told not to mention any such personal things in my application,
> > > >> although it
> > > >> has certainly impacted my 'G year'.
> > > >>
> > > >> Does anyone have any insight or experience in this matter?
> > > >> Thanks in advance,
> > > >> Kirsten
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >> _______________________________________________
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> > > >> Parentsgroup-list at lists.hcs.harvard.edu
> > > >> http://lists.hcs.harvard.edu/mailman/listinfo/parentsgroup-list
> > > >>
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> > > >
> > > > ----- End forwarded message -----
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> > >
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