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Some faculty dissatisfied with quality of life at MIT

Faculty members' satisfaction with their quality of life differs with age, gender and tenure status, according to the Quality of Life survey administered last fall, which found that older, tenured male faculty members express a far greater level of satisfaction than other groups.

The survey defined "quality of life" as "the ability to integrate a fulfilling and productive work life with a fulfilling personal and/or family life," according to the co-chairs of the Council on Family and Work - Professor Roy E. Welsch of the Sloan School and A. Rae Simpson, co-manager of the Center for Work, Family and Personal Life - who presented the survey findings at the faculty meeting on Nov. 20.

About one-third of nontenured faculty and 41 percent of tenured women report that they are "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with their quality of life. Among tenured men, satisfaction varies by age, with 36 percent of men under 45 dissatisfied or very dissatisfied compared to only 13 percent of tenured men over 45 years old, said Welsch, a professor of statistics and management science who directs the Center for Computational Research in Economics and Management Science at MIT.

Three-quarters of faculty who are dissatisfied report that the stress of balancing work and personal responsibilities affects their health. Sixty percent of these faculty members feel that MIT does not support their personal or family life.

Faculty are now working longer hours than they were when the last survey was conducted in 1989, with 63 percent of faculty working 60 hours or more in an average week, compared to only 48 percent a decade ago.

The survey also found that pressure and time demands differ among schools. In the School of Science, 23 percent of the faculty are less likely to report health effects of work/life demands. Overall, 37 percent of faculty do so. Seventy-two percent of engineering and 65 percent of Sloan School faculty members report that their job requires too much time, compared to 46 percent in the School of Science and the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (SHASS).

Seventy-five percent of faculty report that no matter how hard they work, they can't get everything done; nearly two-thirds feel physically or emotionally drained at the end of the day. Half say that they can't take care of their personal responsibilities the way they'd like because their job is so demanding. One-third report that the stress of meeting personal responsibilities keeps them from doing their best at work.

Nearly two-thirds of women faculty are in dual-career relationships, compared to only one-third of men. One-third of male faculty members have a spouse or partner who is not employed, compared to only 3 percent of women.

The survey also examined faculty feelings about diversity and inclusion, finding that 56 percent of non-tenured faculty and 71 percent of tenured faculty feel valued and included as members of their department. SHASS faculty are more likely to feel isolated or marginal with respect to the Institute (48 percent in SHASS vs. 29 percent overall). Tenured women faculty members reported feeling marginalized more than did their male peers. The number of underrepresented minorities responding was too small for analysis.

The Council on Family and Work recommended that housing-crunch solutions, backup child care and benefits choices should be pursued immediately and that issues such as pace and pressure, balancing family and personal responsibilities, and analysis of minority populations should be studied more fully.

The full report can be found online along with the staff Quality of Life report ( see related article ).

Provost Robert A. Brown said a committee would be formed this winter to review the council's findings and to pursue recommendations on how to improve the environment at MIT relative to the pace and pressure on faculty.

"We have to find a way to get at the 'more is better' aspect of MIT culture," said Brown, who added that a committee chaired by Jamie Lewis Keith, MIT's senior counsel and managing director for environmental programs and risk management, has already begun reviewing MIT and other institutions' housing policies and would issue a report in the spring.

In other meeting business, faculty approved the proposal of the Engineering Systems Division to offer graduate programs leading to the S.M., Ph.D. and Sc.D. in engineering systems.

Professor Linn Hobbs, chair of the nominating committee, announced that Kenneth R. Manning, the Thomas Melroy Professor of Rhetoric and History of Science, will become secretary of the faculty effective immediately, completing the term of Evelynn Hammonds, who left MIT. Manning will serve until July 14, 2003, at which time he will be nominated for a full term.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 4, 2002.

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