The University of Maryland GSG passed a resolution Friday calling for the graduate school to review its current leave of absence policies for students, which some said they find to be limiting and likely to put students under more stress.
The current policy states that the approved reasons for a leave of absence are childbearing, adoption, serious health conditions, dependent care, financial hardships and military service.
“A couple of my constituents have brought up the issue that when they have gone through the leave of absence process and that it ended up putting them in a worse financial, mental and emotional place than when they had left,” Erin Tinney, the criminology and criminal justice representative who wrote the resolution, said.
Because those who take a leave of absence are not registered students and cannot hold a graduate assistantship, they lose access to university resources.
For international students who may have their visa threatened if they are not enrolled full-time, having a serious illness or medical condition can be one of the only grounds to remain in the United States while on leave.
The resolution suggests possible ways this university could amend the leave of absence policies, such as considering short-term absences in which students wouldn’t lose their registration status or standardizing the policies across all possible reasons for leaving.
“It’s also extremely unclear when a student goes into leave of absence,” Tinney added about the uncertainty of what taking a leave could mean for a student’s education and assistantship. “They know the general graduate school policies, but they might not know how their individual department is going to react.”
The resolution also suggests incorporating policies other Big Ten universities have implemented, such as Michigan State University’s policy that departments must hold assistantships for students upon their return from a leave of absence.
At its Friday session, the Graduate Student Government also passed a resolution that calls on the university’s administration and the committee for the review of student fees to establish a multi-year plan that would phase out the athletics fee for graduate students.
According to a recent survey conducted by the GSG, less than nine percent of the graduate student body has ever attended an athletics game at this university.
“It does not seem ethically correct that for us to have to be paying towards the athletics department for something we don’t even use,” GSG President Joey Haavik said at the Feb. 17 meeting when the resolution was passed.
Each semester, full-time graduate students — those enrolled in nine or more credits — are required to pay an athletics fee of $66.50, while part-time graduate students pay $33.
According to the resolution authored by Haavik, recurrent conversations between the GSG and this university’s athletics department have taken place about the fee, but no progress has been made on the issue.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story’s photo caption misstated the Graduate Student Government members were voting. They were getting sworn in. This story has been updated.