Some University of Maryland graduate students are advocating for the length of their parental leave to be extended.
The parental accommodation policy for graduate students at this university grants up to six weeks of parental leave. Full-time faculty and staff at the university are allowed up to 12 weeks of parental leave.
Graduate Student Government President Autumn Perkey said the six weeks of allowed leave does not meet the needs of new parents.
“We can do better,” Perkey said. “Ideally, we would give graduate students 12 weeks, or 12 weeks with the potential for flexible work accommodations, or making sure they’re not assigned positions that can’t be flexible and accommodating.”
Government and politics doctoral student Megan Lloyd said she was lucky enough to receive support from her department, such as a lighter workload, after she had twins. Lloyd said the six-week leave would not have been enough without the extra support.
“I’ve really felt very supported by faculty and my colleagues in the department,” Lloyd said. “There are several people who have kids, but even other grad students who do not have kids have been really just supportive.”
Some departments on campus, such as the department of English, give more than the six weeks of mandated leave to graduate students, according to Perkey.
“They are a fantastic example of the best of us as they give their graduate students 12 weeks leave,” Perkey said of the department.
Parental leave for graduate students should be increased to at least 10 weeks to account for the medical and emotional impacts of becoming a parent, according to Perkey.
However, Perkey said graduate students would ideally get the same 12 weeks of leave that faculty and staff are given.
Lloyd added that 12 weeks of leave is a “more realistic time frame for women to recover.”
Jillian Andres Rothschild, the GSG legislative affairs vice president, said there is an understanding and positive environment for parents among many departments at this university.
“I think everyone’s been really supportive,” Rothschild said. “That’s why I’m optimistic about having policies that reflect that.”
For Perkey, improving affordable housing for graduate students is closely tied into supporting graduate student parents.
Currently, a housing development for graduate students is planned to replace the former Old Leonardtown apartments. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.
“We’re in a housing insecurity fiasco,” Perkey said. “That’s still three years from now when we’re going to have affordable housing for graduate students that might be able to accommodate graduate student parents.”
Rothschild shared that expanding affordable childcare options on campus is another priority for graduate student parents.
Lloyd also said improving childcare options will help graduate students finish their programs more efficiently.
“If you want to see your students working through the program in an efficient manner and not having PhDs that are dragging on for years and years, I think a key piece to that is making it doable,” Lloyd said.