New Parental Leave policy allows one month leave for foster, surrogate, birth, and non-birth parents

Policy in addition to current Childbirth Accommodation, which gives two months for grad students who give birth

A new Parental Leave policy for graduate students will take effect Sept. 1 so that all parents who have significant responsibilities for a newborn or child newly placed with them through surrogacy, adoption, foster care, or court order will be eligible for one month of leave. Students will be paid during this time if they are supported by an RA, TA, or fellowship.

This new policy will be in addition to the existing two months of Childbirth Accommodation (CBA) provided for only graduate students who give birth (“birth parents”).

As of fall 2017, all schools but SHASS paid for an optional third month of leave in addition to CBA, either locally at the department level or centrally via the Dean’s Office for the birth parent, according to Mary Markel Murphy, senior associate dean, in an email to The Tech. The Parental Leave policy expands the benefit for eligible birth parents to be up to three months and one month for eligible graduate students who have significant parental responsibilities.

“We want to recognize that everyone plays a role in the family when a new child comes into it,” Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz said in an interview with The Tech.

Like CBA, the Parental Leave policy will provide academic and financial support. Academically, parents will not have any responsibilities until their leave is over. “One of the things we’ve noticed when we talk to students who take advantage of maternity leave is that their advisors still expect them to work, like doing a lot of reading when they have their baby,” former Graduate Women at MIT Executive Co-Chair Amanda Kedaigle said in an interview with The Tech. “The new policy states that the leave is a stop of academic and research clocks. Students cannot be required to do anything.”

Financially, students supported by an RA, TA, or fellowship will continue to receive the benefits, such as tuition, stipend, and health insurance. However, students who are self-funded are not eligible for tuition or stipend funding. The responsibility for funding Parental Leave will reside at the level of the academic department unless otherwise instructed by the respective school dean’s office, according to the new policy.

There are around 60 to 70 births at MIT per year, David Tytell, MIT Medical director of marketing, wrote in an email to The Tech.

The cost of offering one month of paid Parental Leave is about $8,600 per parent assuming 2017-18 tuition and stipend rates, Murphy said in an interview with The Tech.

The issue of parental leave first came to the administration’s attention when the Graduate Student Council and GWAMIT brought forward a proposal in December 2016, in which they compared MIT’s current CBA policy to that of other schools. Students in Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences who are expecting a child either by adoption or childbirth are eligible for twelve weeks of paid leave, with the stipend equal to “two-fifths teaching” for 12 weeks, which was $6,264 in 2016.

After the administration determined how much a month of parental leave would cost and where the money would come from, GSC and GWAMIT helped draft the policy’s language. “I think the administration did a good job allowing for several different situations, whether you are using a surrogate, adopting a child, or are the birth, or non-birth parent,” GWAMIT Executive Co-Chair Molly Bird G said in an interview with The Tech. “I worked with them to make sure the wording of the policy was clear, and that as long as grad students fit the criteria of being a new parent and followed the right procedures, their application would be approved.”

Waitz announced the new policy in a letter to graduate students last month that also unveiled a new strategic effort to enhance the graduate student experience. “It’s nice to have some immediate good news to share as part of a broader strategic effort to address graduate student needs,” Waitz said.