University of Maryland graduate students have mixed feelings about a new university policy that will extend parental leave for graduate students by two weeks.

In a February Graduate Council meeting, this university announced a revision to its parental accommodation policy that extends parental leave for graduate students from six weeks to eight weeks.

The new policy affects all graduate departments and programs, applies to all instances of birth or adoption and requires students to take the leave in one continuous block.

In an interview with The Diamondback, university president Darryll Pines said the new policy was implemented to better align with other Big Ten institutions’ parental leave policies.

“Once we sort of analyzed our Big Ten peers, we realized that we were not meeting the best practices,” Pines said. “We are proud that we are at this point.”

Pines added that the policy had been “well-received” and was made in collaboration with this university’s graduate students, including Graduate Student Government president Autumn Perkey.

Perkey, a mother of two, said she has been working with this university for years to revise the parental leave policy. The six-week parental leave plan did not adequately support new parents’ needs, Perkey, a government and politics doctoral student, said.

The change to an eight-week parental leave is “progress, but it’s not exactly where we should be,” Perkey said.

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Like Pines, Stephen Roth, this university’s associate provost and graduate school dean, said he worked closely with the GSG when developing the new policy. Roth said graduate students can also discuss further accommodations with their departments to supplement the policy.

Students work with their programs to outline an advising plan, describe how they will catch up on coursework and maintain other program requirements, Roth said.

“We want to ensure that students have the leave so that they can spend time with their child and recover in terms of their physical health, but also because this isn’t a formal leave of absence from the campus,” Roth said. “We want to ensure that they are able to maintain academic progress during this time.”

Some departments provide more leniency in parental leave, Perkey said, citing the English department’s allowance of 12 weeks of parental leave.

Megan Lloyd, a doctoral government and politics student, described the initial six-week time frame given to new parents as “really short” and “unrealistic.” The two-week extension was “great,” Lloyd said.

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Despite the two-week increase in parental leave, Perkey and Lloyd both hope for additional increases to support new student parents moving forward.

Perkey highlighted that many new parents grapple with mental health struggles and medical complications that make extended parental leave crucial to their well-being.

“Eight weeks is an improvement, but that still doesn’t account for anyone who might need 10 weeks or 12 weeks if they have other difficulties,” Perkey said.

Under international labor standards, the World Health Organization suggests that a minimum maternity leave should be at least 14 weeks.

Lloyd added that there is an opportunity for further improvement in this university’s policy. After giving birth to twins, Lloyd said it took three to four months before she was able to revisit her schoolwork and research. Future increases in parental leave could alleviate this stress for future students, Lloyd added.

“Two months of guaranteed leave from the university would have just better cushioned that period of time that I was recovering and adjusting to life as a new mom,” Lloyd said. “It’s exciting to see that the university is actively pursuing improvement.”