The Politics of Academia — The Life of an Adjunct Professor

Tonight on PBS Newshour the story of a California adjunct professor, Arik Greenberg, will be discussed.  Also, here is the story posted on the Newshour website and an excerpt:

Adjunct professors now make up half of all college faculties, and 76 percent of instructional positions are filled on a contingent basis, according to the American Association of University Professors’ annual report on the “economic status of the profession.” There’s no starker way to consider adjuncts’ economic status than to hear that they’re paid an average of $2,000-$3,000 per class, with few to no benefits. At SUNY New Paltz, for example, between 1979 and 2008, adjunct pay has fallen 49 percent, while salaries for college presidents have increased 35 percent. The plight of adjuncts — what we’re calling “adjunctivitis” — is the subject on our upcoming Making Sense report.

In Shadow Campus, my debut novel after 9 nonfiction books mostly on workplace politics, one of the lead characters is an adjunct professor. The way he is treated, the feeling of being a second class citizen, low pay despite total commitment to his students are part of the political climate of academia all too familiar to many of our most talented teachers.

Shadow Campus is also a story of a young female professor’s contentious bid for tenure at a university where the emphasis is on “fit” rather than competence.  Her unwillingness to accept this, like Arik’s real-life refusal to accept his plight of “adjunctivitis,” launches a set of events leading to her near demise.  For Meg Doherty the issue, like being an adjunct, is being a woman for whom “fit” is a difficult criteria to define.  It’s fiction with a dose of reality at its core — an insider’s look at the underside of politics — not just in academia but where so many of us work.

I created the character, Rashid because I have worked with so many excellent adjunct professors. They are often better teachers than tenure track faculty. It’s important that colleges and universities reward skill and dedication, provide insurance benefits and pay salaries that reflect quality non-tenure track faculty work. Research would not be possible without the excellent teachers who build university reputations and also make it possible for those who pursue the publication/research route to have the time needed to do so

Posted in Politics, Shadow Campus | Leave a comment

How Many More Tragedies Before We Address Serious Mental Illness?

(This blog was posted today at Huffington Post.  It’s amazing how little most of us know about mental illness.  Until it hits our families, and from the statistics the likelihood is reasonably high, we turn the other way.  Perhaps that’s natural.  We can’t worry all the time about every illness we read about.  Even as a professor of preventive medicine for part of my career, I had a lot to learn about mental illnesses.  It’s worth taking some time, even if your life has not been touched by any form, to learn more about mental health issues and to perhaps find it in your hearts to help others living with them everyday, to support families struggling to find the best solutions, to recognize onset in someone you love earlier than you might otherwise, or to consider it part of your challenge to bring about change.)

Ask Virginia State Senator Creigh Deedsabout his son Austin. He’ll tell you of a “beautiful child” who was “full of love.” Yet Austin (Gus), age 24, stabbed his father multiple times before taking his own life. “Whatever illness took him was so contrary to his nature,” Deeds told CNN.

Onset of serious mental illness in late teens and early twenties is very common and often shocking to the families that experience it. The medical community knows this; researchers know this; millions of families know this and yet we wait for the topic to find its time while millions try to cope. Surely we can do better.

Over 13.5 million adults in the United States suffer from serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, major depression and bi-polar disorder. Approximately 20% of American youth between 13 and 18 years of age experience severe mental illness in a given year, 2.6 million people live with schizophrenia and 6.1 million with bi-polar disorder. The problem is worldwide. Then there are the families who often suffer in silence under a heavy cloud of stigma and fear.

Recent research indicates the rate of medication noncompliance for serious mental illness is upwards of 74 percent soon after initiation, especially among patients withschizophrenia. University of Pennsylvania research indicates that if schizophrenia patients prematurely discontinue the first prescription of antipsychotic medication, then the chances are reduced of them sticking to a medication regimen later.

Of course, many people take medication as prescribed and do well. These are not the patients Xavior Amador, Ph.D., writes about in I Am Not Sick. I Don’t Need Help. Amador describes a neurological condition called anosognosia that prevents many patients with serious mental illness from believing they are ill. He argues that it is not stubbornness or denial in the more common sense that keeps these patients from taking medication. In their heart of hearts, they believe that they are not ill. Rejection of illness is essentially a symptom of their illness.

It would be immoral to allow someone in insulin shock to go untreated. Why is it that we insist on letting people who are so sick that they don’t know they’re sick go untreated? Yet that is what we do in civilized countries around the world. We tell ourselves that if a mentally ill person thinks he is well and doesn’t at the moment appear to present a danger to himself or others, no matter how delusional or fractured his or her grasp on reality, it’s okay to let conditions get worse. If drugs are involved, especially accompanying symptoms like delusions and medicine noncompliance, research indicates that the chances of violence are significantly increased.

Try to get help under these circumstances for someone you love: It’s a nightmare. “Has he threatened to kill himself?” and “Has he threatened to harm someone else?” are two questions to expect. Yet patients who have been hospitalized before after discontinuing medication for serious psychotic disorders, whose conditions deteriorate in predictable ways, especially ones who have become violent, shouldn’t be required to express an explicit threat to self or others before being admitted to a hospital for treatment. It defies common sense to ignore a patient’s history. No wonder so many mentally ill people are homeless or in jail. Such negligence would be grounds for malpractice with other diseases.

Deeds, who is working to help mental health patients and families, puts it this way: “When…it’s been determined that that person is in crisis and needs service, there should not be a possibility that they are streeted.” He added, “That person should receive the treatment they need. It’s absolutely essential.”

As if that struggle isn’t enough for families to deal with, try to find post-hospital assisted living for a stabilized patient when support is needed. Finding such support is an endless nightmare for families and often prohibitively expensive.

Legal efforts at mental health parity with other illnesses and insurance coverage are steps in the right direction. We need more understanding of serious mental illness, greater awareness of its prevalence and a system of hospitalization and after care that does not have as a prerequisite expressed threat to someone’s life. As a society, we need to do the hard work of sorting out what constitutes a pattern of worsening mental health.

It’s time to stop passing the buck. Let’s do the math. The data are in. Look at the statistics. Look at the families in pain struggling to find help. The buck stops at our front doors. It’s time to get up off the cushy sofa of willful neglect and answer the door.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Setback in Harvard Business School Progress For Women – But Let’s Give Some Credit Where It’s Due

Harvard Business School is making progress toward the advancement of women before and after they graduate from this prestigious school.  Dean Nitin Nohria has made it his business to improve conditions at HBS by doing the following:

Shortly after becoming dean in 2010, he named the first woman in the school’s history as the head of Harvard’s flagship MBA program.

He closed the school’s embarrassingly large performance gap in which men routinely received the lion’s share of academic honors at graduation. (Though women accounted for 36% of Harvard’s Class of 2009, only 11% of the school’s Baker Scholars — the top 5% of the graduating class — were female. A record 38% of last year’s honors went to women.)

He tackled issues of sexual harassment on campus by getting student leaders to address them head on and making gender roles an open issue for discussion among students.

He increased MBA enrollment of women to record levels — 41% of the Class of 2015.

He invested in an extraordinary celebration of women for the school’s 50th anniversary ofadmitting women to its two-year MBA program in 1963 with eight students.

And now he is promising to more than double the number of case studies with women as role models and leaders.

Dean Nohria even apologized for the way Harvard Business School has treated women over the years by acknowledging that women there have often felt disrespected.  His intention is to continue to change this and so he said: “The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better.”

Unfortunately, doubling of the number of case studies with women as role models and leaders only brings the total to 20% of the case studies students will be reading.  Since Harvard case studies are used extensively at business schools around the world (80%), this decision reverberates.  Had he promised that as of next year the number of case studies with women in significant roles will be 20% as opposed to 9%, rather than aiming to reach 20% in five years time, the response would have been somewhat more positive.

Dean Nohria’s intentions are positive.  With Harvard Business School classes boasting 41% women now, it’s time, however, to make sure teaching materials reflect the changing times.  Years ago, I wrote “The Memo Every Woman Keeps In Her Desk” — a Harvard Business Review reprint bestseller still relevant today.  It was about the subtle and not so subtle exclusionary practices of an organization and a young woman’s quandary about sending a memo about those to her CEO.  By now such case studies should be antiques.  They aren’t.  Times have not changed sufficiently and we can hardly expect that they will any time soon unless women are represented in teaching materials at business schools in accordance with their class numbers.

Dean Nohria deserves credit.  But until case studies reflect the increasing presence of women entering the pipeline to the top of organizations and, to some extent, the struggles they face emerging from that pipeline to senior positions, things will remain woefully the same.  It’s time for Harvard to get busy writing cases in which women are senior executives.  Until then, business schools may need to drop that 80% reliance on Harvard cases by developing some of their own.



Posted in Tutorials for Women | Leave a comment

Questions Women Need To Ask About Politics At Work

This morning I was reminded by a tweet from Nantucket blACKbook that some things you need to be a bear about repeating.  When it comes to women knowing more about politics at work, that’s definitely the case.  So, my thanks for that reminder.

Below is a re- blog from December that I hope you’ll read and share with women.  We need to know more about politics at work.  I’ve spent years learning the hard way and by studying this subject and I’d like all women to benefit from the experience.  You’re never too young or too old to get a handle on the political culture where you work.

Nantucket blACKbook

1 of the best articles I’ve ever read. Ask better questions. Get better relationships ~ @HuffingtonPost @kathreardon

Are We Asking The Right Questions About Women’s Advancement At Work?

The Sunday New York Times front-page story “Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers” is a look at how women can make it to the top by engaging in an increasingly popular form of “marrying well” — having a stay-at-home husband.

An interesting article, it nonetheless points to yet another avenue women may take to get ahead that is nearly impossible to find. Where does one look for a spouse who aspires to stay at home with the children? Sure, they’re out there. But is this a viable path for women wishing to reach the top? Or is it another intriguing, rare-as-hen’s-teeth option that opens doors for a very few?

The NYT article is about wealthy women of Wall Street and so it was not intended to be representative of the majority of women working in corporate America. How couples work out “who buys the wife’s jewelry when she makes upward of a million dollars a year and the husband earns little or nothing” is interesting. But it’s difficult to feel too sorry for their dilemma. Similarly, when the husband won’t or can’t host parties for his wife’s clients, limiting as that might be, it’s hardly an unsolvable problem when you’re bringing home a bundle of money each week.

Women need solutions that can actually be applied if they are to advance in organizations dominated by men. Those come from good questions about the inner workings of such organizations. Women need to learn what makes organizations tick and that usually means politics. Yet, as a rule, women come late to taking an interest in and understanding politics.

The dearth of female mentors is one reason. Another is the tendency for women to be mentored by men when they’re “cute-and-little” and a threat to no one. They become comfortable with this, often thinking those feminists had it wrong. When they start going for the big jobs, however, competing against often similarly competent males, they often find advice is not so readily available.

By the time most women reach the point where promoting them to senior levels means not promoting a man, they have offended someone. Who hasn’t by then? Wells are easily poisoned with comments like, “She’s brilliant and everyone loves her, but is she a good fit?” When women don’t know this sort of seemingly nebulous way of judging them is in the works, they are blindsided.

Political purists don’t survive in highly and pathologically political organizations. You have to be on your toes, know what goes on behind the scenes, read the tealeaves, and position yourself for promotion by establishing as irrefutable a case as possible. You need to find comfort with power and learn how it’s obtained and used by those who get ahead.

That’s a tall order. But it’s not as tough as finding a future spouse, or converting a current one, who’ll stay at home with the kids when you need to fight the good fight at work. It’s one way forward on Wall Street, but it’s not the solution to women’s low representation at high levels and lower salaries across the board.

Front-page articles like the one by Jodi Kantor and Jessica Silver-Greenberg in The New York Times are important to the goal of discussing and grappling with why women lag behind their male peers in so many fields. But when the rubber hits the road, what women need to do for starters aside from make themselves valuable, if not in some way indispensable, is to know why highly competent women who came before them didn’t make it to the top and why others did.

You have to ask yourself if you’re in an organization where your preferred style of politics is suited to the prevailing one and whether you’re willing and able to adapt. Are you where what you have to offer adds value, where what you have to say is heard, and where your management/leadership skills have been duly noted?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then the task before you is not to find a stay-at-home spouse to care for the kids, although a possible asset, it’s to begin teaching yourself more about politics and to stay far away from full-fledged “leaning in” until you’re sure where you are is where you’re likely to thrive.

(More by clicking on the category “Tutorials for Women” in the right column of this page) and @kathreardon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Important is an Education from a Top Ranked College?

I posted this comment today on Linkedin’s Forbes Woman Group.  The question pertained to whether it’s better to go to a highly ranked university.  Here are a few thoughts for future and current college students and their parents.

A degree from a highly ranked college can be very helpful in obtaining a desired job. The network can also be a leg up. When push comes to shove, however, what you learned while in college matters most. There are terrific professors at every college. Take their courses. Broaden your mind. Learn as much as you can from the very best. Develop an understanding of business and the politics involved in finding and keeping a job, especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated field. If you didn’t do that as an undergraduate or graduate student, consider taking some additional courses. Learn how to network, but not in silly ways like giving your business card to everyone in a room, as I’ve seen only women do at conferences. Make a point of meeting people who have succeeded in your field and learn from them. The degree is a ticket to the game. Some tickets are for the best seats in the house. That doesn’t mean a better experience all of the time. The hardest working students, the ones interested in getting a great education, stand out. Professors want to help them and that leads to good jobs. Sometimes it’s better to stand out in a college where everyone there hasn’t been told they’re special.

Some other things to consider include knowing yourself.  If you have difficulty with certain subjects required in a college curriculum, then start early getting the tutoring help you’ll need.  Don’t wait for the professor or administration to come to you.

College is an investment.  You wouldn’t go to a store and head right for all the picked-over junk if you could get stellar quality a few aisles over.  The same is true of college.  You get out of it what you put into it.  Finding the best your college has to offer and making sure you are in those classes is crucial.  Narrowing the fields of study to ones already of interest and then taking a few risks, again with the best professors possible, is a good way to proceed.  Attend professor office hours now and then and bring your questions.  These hours are an opportunity to learn one-on-one.  Also, the professor will be more likely to remember you when you need a job recommendation.

Spending a fortune to go to a top college or university is fine if you have a fortune or scholarships with some loans.  Otherwise, don’t despair.  There are fine educational experiences to be had all over the world.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

At the Intersection of Leadership and Politics

I posted this comment in response to a post by Jon Currie on the new Linkedin group Wholehearted Leadership.  Thought I’d share it.  The post was:

We need more common sense and less rule structure to truly be leaders. Boundaries, of course. But not brick walls. Thoughts? (I’m fragile, be nice). Manager’s Choice

Owner, CEO, Currie Communications, Inc.Top Contributor

Jon: I have been interested for some time in the intersection of leadership and politics. Your question made me think about the rule aspect. Political culture influences the extent to which trust and relaxed rules exist at work. In minimally and moderately political divisions or organizations (where there’s more trust), rules tend to be less intrusive than in highly and pathologically political ones. I wonder if taking on a leadership role in an organization that is pathological precludes reducing the rules. In other words, once things have gotten that bad (people watching their backs) is there any turning back to a more relaxed approach? Is there a type of leader who can do this more effectively than others?

Also, here’s an interesting article about reframing failure as growth on the route to leadership.  ”The Re-Education of Jim Collins” (Inc.) on his visits to West Point.  He observed that the cadets were happy despite tremendous pressure and experiencing repeated failures in their efforts to reach difficult goals.  He began to look at a three prongs in the development of leaders like those developed at West Point.  Winning or succeeding, he observed, is not everything.

Excerpt:  As the plane descended into Newark’s airport, Collins took out a piece of paper and drew a triangle. One point he labeled success, another growth, and the third service. Those three corners of the triangle, he sensed, held an answer to the paradox he had observed in the culture of West Point.


Posted in Leadership | Leave a comment

Who Are We To Judge? There Are No Rules For Living With Cancer

This blog follows from one posted today at The Conversation and also at Huffington Post.  Here are a few extra thoughts.

When I found a suspicious lump in my right breast, what I would have given to read Lisa Adams’ controversial blog and Twitter feed about living with that disease.  I was thirty when I first went to a doctor about it, thirty-two when the diagnosis finally came — in disbelief, angry at myself for not having insisted on a mammogram when I sensed the lump had grown, worried about my father’s heart and my mother’s nerves, wondering if I would ever have children, and if my career, perhaps my life, was over.  And those thoughts were only the ones I had immediately subsequent to the diagnosis.

My college students cried when they learned.  I cheered them up.  My humor that first year was off the charts — part of coping.  Colleagues at the University of Connecticut refused to let me drive myself to treatment.  Knowing I’d go alone, they showed up early at my home each morning to drive an hour, sit unsettled with me and other cancer patients, keep me company, and drive me back home.

I was interviewed frequently that year about research I’d conducted that was receiving a lot of national and international press coverage.  I either didn’t mention cancer or asked, if they knew about it, that they not mention it in the articles.  That was my choice at the time for a variety of reasons that aren’t relevant now.

Lisa Adams’ struggle is in a different time and she is her own person.  Breast cancer is more commonly discussed now.  There are many support groups and medical advice is widely available.  Still, it’s a scary thing.  From the number of followers she has, it’s evident that patients and their families and friends want the kind of information she provides.  Her postings of photos are lovely and inspiring.  She shares news of cancer treatments and blogs about topics important to people coping with cancer.

I wish her the best and hope that the conversation generated by criticism of her blog and tweets will be considered a small moment among many ones of support, gratitude and love.

Posted in Health Issues | 2 Comments

Making a List of “Highly Qualified” Women to Help Apple Find Some Female Board Members

Apparently it could take Apple years to find “highly qualified” women for their board (see below).  They obviously need help.  So, feel free to send me (via comments) suggested names and links to their bios.  Or, send them along to Apple.  You might copy or tweet Twitter while you’re at it.  Maybe they’ll both get the message.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Looking for “Tutorials for Women”?

If so, go to the right column of this page and click on “Categories.”  You’ll find it and other topics there.  Thanks for dropping by,  Kathleen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Excuse for Apple’s Binders Full of Women Problem

That’s the title of my latest blog.  And yes, I’m miffed.  How many Apple customers does it take for them to have more than one woman on their board, the same woman who is their only minority board member?  It’s ridiculous.

Is it wrong to expect a company run by so many young people who were supposed to be less opposed to women’s advancement at work to not bring us back to the dark ages?  I wonder what Al Gore is doing as a member of that board.  Time for him to take a stand.

Women over the decades have worked tirelessly to help other women have less difficulty than they did in getting ahead in business.  And yet, here we are in 2014 expected to be happy that Apple might add another woman to their board, although they think it will take them a while.  Give me a break!  It is going to take me a while to buy another of their products.

Twitter recently got the message, having had no women on their board. It took a groundswell of anger to break that juggernaut.  It’s some sort of progress.  Certainly it’s not enough.

I can imagine what my former colleague, Betty Friedan, would be saying today.  She’d be appalled.  Truth be told, so am I as you can tell from the blog (below).



Big hoopla this week that Apple is open to more female representation on their board. They caution, however, that it may take a few years. Coincidentally, NASA just announced their intention to spur a young commercial space industry and solve astronaut complex health issues during four extra years given to them. Apple must be going to another galaxy and back looking for their next female board member.

Thanks to Apple shareholders, the company’s board nominating committee will now be “actively seeking out highly qualified women.” Which raises the question: What has the committee been doing for more than three decades? Apparently the same thing they’ve been doing about minorities, since the woman currently on the board is also its only member of a minority group.

Worse still, Apple finds it necessary to specify that such women must be “highly qualified.” The implication is that they’re hard to find or that the good ones are all taken. I could have a list, with bios, in 20 minutes. Who couldn’t?

This is more than a little reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment that revealed how out-of-touch he was with the issue of women’s equality at work.

News flash for Apple: A woman as far back as 1993 to 1996 was NASA’s Chief Scientist. You might want to check her math and management skills. See if she’d be considered “highly qualified.” Then there’s NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, which is 50 percent women.

Of course, it’s Apple’s right as an American company to maintain a backward culture, to drag its feet on bringing women onto the board, to walk around blinded by their own ignorance, to make excuses that won’t stand the light of day so that they can keep hiring board members who “fit” the culture and make everyone already there feel comfortable. It’s our choice as consumers whether or not to help them do it.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment