The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, March 16, 1988- Page 5
From lecture hall to living room
Like most professors, Arlene Saxonhouse addresses
her students from the front of the class, behind a
makeshift podium. She is in control; her students
scribble down her words which are delivered with
confidence and authority.
Later, at home, the atmosphere is different. She
chops carrots with her 10-year old daughter, Elena. Her
voice is softer as she asks Elena about piano lessons
Meanwhile, her husband, who is also a University
professor, is sprawled on the living room couch reading
the New York Times. He too would have addressed a
class of students earlier that day, but this term Gary
Saxonhouse is on sabbatical.
"Dinner's ready!" Arlene calls from the kitchen. The
scene would be striking to their students, who like
most, never see their professors at home with their
For the Saxonhouses, home is a two-story house
near central campus - tastefully decorated with
artwork, antique wooden chests, Saarinen lamps, and
Oriental rugs. Academia seems to envelop the home.
An abundance of books and journals line the shelves.
But that is understandable. Both are described by
colleagues as vital to the University - Gary
Saxonhouse in the economics department, and Arlene
Saxonhouse in the political science department.
They are also parents of three children: Lily, who is
18 and headed for Yale University; Noam, who is 14
and attends Greenhills High School; and Elena, who
goes to Angel Elementary School.
The entire family clearly enjoys being together.
Gary and Arlene both seem to find enough time to
spend with their children, despite their busy schedules.
A typical professor's job usually consists of teaching
one or two classes, holding office hours, guest
lecturing once in a while, and doing research for
publication on the side.
The Saxonhouses, for instance, have traveled
together around the United States, Europe, and the Far
East - sometimes for months at a time. Gary and
Arlene give guest lectures at various universities during
"One advantage of working at the University," says
Arlene, "is that it is very flexible." Gary agrees, saying
that being a professor is an "ideal" job that allows
During a typical day, both are generally free to go
home after teaching in the morning and then holding
office hours. Dinner is usually ready by 6 p.m. and the
entire family eats together.
Right after dinner, Arlene and Gary usually read the
newspaper or perhaps listen to Elena practice the piano.
Later, both parents are free to help their children with
their homework, watch television, or spend time with
them in various other ways.
It's not until the children are ready for bed that they
do their own work, which generally consists of
preparing for the next day's class, and working on their
But the Saxonhouses' situation was not always so
flexible and enjoyable. They suffered problems faced by
many couples in academia.
After both earned doctorate degrees at Yale in 1969,
Gary was immediately offered an assistant
professorship at the University. But Arlene was not.
offered one, because of a mix-up in her application.
She instead accepted an associate professorship at
Eastern Michigan University. Because she had to
commute, they had a hard time finding time together.
But when Stanford University offered both
Saxonhouses positions a year later, the University
offered Arlene a position as a political science lecturer.
She was made an associate professor in 1977, before
being promoted to full professor status in 1984. Gary
was made a full professor in 1979, after being
promoted to associate professor in 1975.
The inability to accommodate teaching jobs for both
husband and wife is an increasing problem at most all
universities across the nation. And the problem will
undoubtedly grow worse as more women are admitted
University)," says Gary. He explained that in a city
like Boston, the spouse could be employed by any
number of schools in the area. "Here in Ann Arbor,
there are very few choices to choose from," he said.
This problem has been dubbed the "two-body
problem" and it is "something that universities are
'going to have to be increasingly sensitive to,"
Duderstadt said. "We are looking at this issue with
more concern and flexibility because we realize that it
is vital to retain a good faculty for the future of any
But this is not the only problem that families like
the Saxonhouses have to cope with. Child care was a
big burden for Arlene in the early '70s and it is still an
issue today for professors who have children.
The University gives assistant professors six years
to produce a tenurable record. However, many women
who decide to have children during that time are at a
"The clock doesn't stop when you have children,"
says Arlene, who raised children during her six year
research time. "It doesn't make sense in the academic
arena. It creates a burden for the woman, and it's a
burden as a parent. There is a lot of physical strain."
Arlene argues that the clock should stop for
maternity leave, and that the time taken off for birth
and recovery should be able to be made up.
But aside from the problems they have encountered,
the Saxonhouses are satisfied with their lifestyle.
Although they sometimes cannot participate in
activities such as going on school field trips with their
children, or becoming members of the P.T.A., they
usually have time to see Noam play basketball, take
Elena to her piano lessons, and watch Lily's theater
"I think that the children understand our time
commitment," says Arlene, "and I think that they view