Partner-Accommodation Recommendations

By Anita Levy

The AAUP’s Committee on Women in the Academic Profession recently released Recommendations on Partner Accommodation and Dual-Career Appointments, continuing its decades-long work promoting gender equity and work-family balance in the academy. The recommendations provide assistance to professors and administrators in view of the increasing likelihood that faculty members, particularly women faculty members, will have domestic partners or spouses who are also academics and that they will seek appointments at the same institution. The recommendations are designed to assist colleges and universities in understanding the complex issues raised by dual-career academic appointments and to develop policies responsive to demographic changes in the academy. They provide critical guidance on developing sound, equitable policies that draw significantly from AAUP principles and standards on faculty governance, faculty appointments, and family responsibilities and academic work. In addition, they provide a comprehensive review of the types of partner-accommodation programs already available to dual-career academic couples at many colleges and universities.

The recommendations recognize the diversity of academic institutions and their needs rather than endorsing  a particular partner-accommodation program or policy as appropriate for all institutions. Research universities, for example, may have a particular interest in developing such programs and policies to remedy consistent underrepresentation of women among their probationary and tenured faculty. Smaller institutions, because they may have more difficulty accommodating dual-career couples, may be le ss inclined to do so. Whatever their needs, colleges and universities can benefit from well-developed policies that, according to the recommendations, “meet the strictest tests for transparency and good governance practices.”

Included among the recommendations are that accommodation policies be developed by appropriate faculty bodies taking into account local conditions and institutional particularities; that departmental hiring priorities and programmatic and budgetary needs be taken into account; that any potential faculty appointments made as a result of the implementation of accommodation policies be driven by considerations of merit; and that, whenever possible, appointments be made to tenure-track positions. “Dual-career appointments should not be the occasion for increasing the number of contingent faculty members at an institution,” the document states.

Balancing the needs of departments and institutions with the needs of faculty members is essential for successful partner-accommodation appointments. The AAUP committee’s recommendations will prove a useful tool to faculty members and administrators seeking to harmonize sensitivity to the needs of academic couples with due attention to good governance and the protections of tenure.

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