UC Berkeley News


Improvements on the work/life horizon
Array of benefits is being added to constantly, with work still left to do

| 12 October 2005

Zacharias Bahm joined Chancellor Birgeneau in breaking ground for the new Early Childhood Education Center, as Professor Alison Gopnik, co-chair of the steering committee for the new center, looked on. (Peg Skorpinski photo)
Juggling the competing pressures of work and family is an ongoing challenge for parents as well as for adults who care for their own aging parents. To draw attention to their struggle and its consequences in the workplace, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 2003 that designates each October "National Work and Family Month."

Berkeley boasts a host of progressive work/family offerings, including flexible work arrangements for staff, tenure-clock stoppage for faculty, domestic-partner benefits, an eldercare program, and a breastfeeding-support program.

"Overall, we've made good progress, though there are more policies and programs we are working on developing," says Carol Hoffman, co-chair of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Dependent Care, who manages Work/Life, a University Health Services program for faculty and staff. "I'd like to see awareness of the programs and policies we do offer increased among faculty and staff, so that they are able to use the opportunities available to them."

A number of recent developments on the work/family front at Berkeley merit mentioning, says Hoffman:

Early Childhood Education Center

Construction began last week on the Early Childhood Education Center, located on Haste Street just west of Dana Street. The two-story wood-framed childcare and education facility will accommodate 74 children of faculty and staff and will also be used as an interdisciplinary training ground for new early-childhood-education professionals as well as policymakers.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 7, Chancellor Birgeneau voiced his appreciation for such teachers: "My daughter and her newborn baby and three-year-old recently stayed with us for a couple of weeks while her husband was away for work. A chancellor needs a lot of energy for his job, but that's nothing compared to the energy it takes to do childcare."

Fundraising is under way to make all campus childcare centers affordable for lower-income staff and faculty. The Judith Gruber Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established for this purpose. Gruber, who died in June, was "a systemwide and campuswide leader, advocating for the development of childcare for faculty and staff that is high- quality and affordable," says Hoffman. "So many of the work/life policy, program, and benefit gains made for faculty and staff would not have happened without her."

UC Faculty Family-Friendly Edge Initiative

This initiative (ucfamilyedge.berkeley.edu), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was created to develop and implement a comprehensive package of innovative work-family policies and programs for ladder-rank faculty in the UC system. A series of revisions to UC's family-accommodation policies for tenure-track faculty are currently out for formal review (www.ucop.edu/acadadv/acadpers/apm/review.html), and it's expected that new policies will be issued in the near future.

The project has played a pivotal role in the national debate regarding flexible options for tenure-track faculty. This summer, a group of high-level administrators from nine major U.S. research universities (Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, MIT., the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, Cal Tech, Stanford, and Princeton) convened in Berkeley to share best practices and to develop a joint statement regarding the importance of work/family issues as they relate to gender equity. The statement's expected release date is later this fall.

A listserv for family-related concerns

Faculty, staff, and students who are raising children while pursuing academic goals or careers at UC campuses now have an online resource and forum for family-related information. UC Families (parents.berkeley. edu/ucfamilies) offers up-to-date, campus-specific parenting resources, UC-wide policy information, and archives of past advice and recommendations. Members can post questions or engage in discussions on such topics as writing a thesis while caring for a baby, negotiating a flexible work schedule, the optimal time for starting a family, and balancing a tenure-track career with the demands of parenting.

UC Families is a collaboration between the Berkeley Parents Network (parents.berkeley.edu), a Bay Area parent-to-parent website and newsletter serving 12,000 families, and the UC Faculty Family-Friendly Edge Initiative.

For questions, concerns, and information on Berkeley work/life issues, contact Carol Hoffman at choffman@uhs.berkeley.edu or at 642-7883, or visit workandfamily.chance.berkeley.edu.