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help - was Where is Everyone?

Karen Lona Allendoerfer ka143 at columbia.edu
Tue May 19 00:24:49 EST 1998

Linden Higgins wrote:

(some snippage for brevity)

>This spring, my husband was offered a job as "the scientist" at a law
>school in New England - teaching science to lawyers, what a unique idea!

This does sound like a cool idea, and one whose time has really come!

>We went up a few weeks ago, and I visited the two institutions where there
>was the greatest likelyhood of my finding accomadations for ongoing
>projects (and the grant I have, andthe one I need to write).

	Here I find myself wondering about your husband's institution as a
possibility.  If they really want him to come, couldn't they find some
space for you?  I've heard of institutions doing this for the spouses of
people they really wanted to either hire or keep.  More often it seems to
be for wives, but I've also seen it happen twice for the husbands of women
who the institution really wanted:  positions were found for them.

>Yesterday, I received e-mail from the in-coming chair that the faculty had
>voted to not allow me to be associated with the department.

>I'm trying to be angry rather than hurt - I have telephoned another member
>of the faculty with whom I had a good meeting, I have telephoned someone
>who works about 4 hr away from the law school who might be able to
>accomodate my research in his laboratory (not hopeful), and I am planning
>to call the in-coming chair back and tell him that I really don't need an
>office, and the spiders can live in almost any room because I can use
>"grow-lights" and humidifiers, but I really need something because I am NOT
>ready to give up my research.

	That sounds like a good idea; you mentioned that you have your own
grant, and it seems to me that it would be in their best interest to let
you have the space and pay some of the overhead.  Your grant should be a
good bargaining tool.
	Also, I don't have a good sense of how this all played out in terms
of what you were led to believe or expect from them.  But since you say
that the reception was warm at this institution, did that include any
faculty members who share research interests with you and who might let you
work in their space as a colleague and research associate--i.e. nominally
as a member of their lab, but with autonomy of your own?  It might hurt
going back to being a "glorified postdoc" again, but speaking as a postdoc
myself, I enjoy the experience of being one, and I have seen and been in
situations where they had quite a bit of autonomy, as long as it had been
worked out with the PI beforehand.  And if the PI isn't paying your salary
because you have your own grant, s/he should be glad to have your
experience and insights in exchange for a bit of space, it seems to me.

>Horrors, I never thought I'd be faced with the options of family OR
>research, andit really hurts.

	I can imagine that this hurts.  What a difficult and scary
situation!  This choice, between family and research, is not a choice you
should have to make, any more than any man should have to make it!


	I don't know any more about Linden's situation than what she's
posted, and I don't have anywhere near all the facts about it, so I want to
leave the specific case and use this as a springboard to talk about
situations like this more generally.

	So, consider a hypothetical situation where the husband already has
a tenured position at an institution where his wife also as an adjunct
position.  He then looks for a new job and is offered a tenured position at
another institution where she can't find a position at all.  To me, their
old situation sounds much better, on the whole, for the two of them
considered as a unit, than the new one will be.  Why should they move?

	I have seen on more than one occasion that women find themselves,
years down the road into a career or marriage, in some sort of untenable
situation where they have to choose between their career or their family
anyway, in spite of all of their and their spouse's best intentions.  And
men rarely face this decision.
	I am wondering especially about the role of the individuals'
earlier decisions in all of this:  to what extent do women's individual,
possibly unconscious, decisions lead them to the horns of this dilemma, and
how can individual women, when they are making a fork in the road sort of
decision, make it more proactively so that they don't always end up being
the one who makes the sacrifice?  To what extent do men's individual,
possibly unconscious, decisions lead their wives to the horns of this
dilemma and how can they be more proactive so that they can be more
supportive of their wives' careers--not just talk the talk, but actually
walk the walk?

 	If it were me in this hypothetical situation, I would not have
agreed with my husband's taking a new position in the first place without
having been more sure that there was something for me to do too.  I would
have been personally too worried about having to face just this choice; and
probably I would have drawn some line in the sand before the search for the
new job even started, such as "I'm not moving anywhere for your career
unless I can do my research."
	This would be different if my husband were in a truly horrible
political situation in his old institution: if the chairman had a vendetta
against him, for example, or if he didn't get tenure, or if he lost his
grant, or if animal rights activists blew up his lab.  Then I would be
completely supportive of his decision to leave, regardless of the
consequences to me.  But if he had the typical institutional gripes that
come with almost any academic position, I wouldn't think it very just or
fair to me if he wanted to take a job in a move that destroyed my career
just so he could get more money, space, or prestige.
	But even before it got to that confrontation, I would have assumed
that my husband would be taking both my job and his equally into account in
any future career move considerations, just as I plan to be doing that for
him.  For example, consideration of where my husband can also get a good
job and where he would like to live is one reason among many that I am
seriously looking at jobs in the biotech industry rather than in academia.
This is a situation that he and I want to face together, and share the
opportunity as equally as possible.
	So in short, even if I were offered a Howard Hughes position at the
medical school of my dreams, I would feel really uncomfortable taking that
position, or any position, no matter how great and fulfilling it was to me
personally, if our moving there meant that my husband had to give up his
	And I would expect no less of my husband.  It is something we
talked about at great length before we got married, and we're at least at
present comfortable with it and its consequences.  We realize we'll both be
making career sacrifices for the other, and we've already each made one of
a sort, but that's the point, we'll *both* be making them, not just one of

	I had thought that in this day and age men were open to this idea
of an equal partnership marriage, that they realized the benefits it could
have to them personally, and that women were willing to ask for it and take
steps to protect their own careers to make sure that it came to pass.  Am I


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