Academia is a profession that can require a substantial amount of travel - from serving on grant review panels to attending conferences and more. While it is a tremendous opportunity to see the world and meet new people, it is also problematic for some. Faculty, staff, and students with families or dependents cannot readily travel, and yet they are often measured in job interviews or tenure and promotion reviews on the extent to which they have spoken at conferences or served on panels. In response to this problem, several universities have earned my respect in leading the way with travel assistance policies.
I wrote the letter below to bring a similar policy to fruition at Vanderbilt. It is a work in progress as it moves through leadership and adminsitratorion (with some progress), but perhaps this letter will help others in the same pursuit.
Thank you for taking the time to read this proposal on behalf of Vanderbilt University's single and dual-career parents and other dependent caretakers. From research staff to faculty, professionals in academia often struggle to find the work-life balance and financial resources to attend national and international meetings because the costs of airfare and care services for dependents (children, elderly, ill, or disabled family) are prohibitive. As a result, their scholarship is at a disadvantage relative to others who are not juggling dependent care in academia. Indeed, childcare is one increasing and welcome trend at large meetings, yet without the support to travel to conferences, staff and faculty parents must restrict their professional development and networking.
In response to this escalating demand, universities are pioneering Family-Friendly Travel Policies (see five examples below with web links). Each one supports employees with financial assistance for airfare and/or care services for dependents per fiscal year. At a time when single and dual-career parents and caretakers are rising, it seems that a similar policy at Vanderbilt would not only lift the burden of current scholars with families, but also serve as a recruiting tool for those that consider family policies in their job search. Indeed, there appears to be no existing policy after discussing this topic with colleagues in the Schools of Arts and Science, Law, Medicine, Nursing, and Peabody. A reduced opportunity to speak, meet colleagues, and hear about the latest work in the field translates for many to reduced career growth. We can eliminate this bias and at the same time lift the spirit around family-friendly policies at Vanderbilt.
Ø Cornell University | Faculty Dependent Care Travel Fund | $1000 per year
Ø UC Berkeley | Dependent Care Travel Policy | Covers all costs + 70% more than actual costs to offset taxes that will be deducted
Ø Northwestern University | Dependent Care Professional Travel Grant Program | $750 per year
Ø University of Michigan | Child Travel Expense Policy | $1000 per year
Ø Brown University | Dependent Care Travel Fund | $750 per year
Thank you very much for considering this Faculty Life principle.