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Childbirth Accommodation and Family Leave

Brown University recognizes that life events such as becoming a parent can interrupt a student’s academic career. We are committed to supporting all of our graduate students in their professional development, and to finding ways to accommodate life events in that process. Students who wish to take either of these forms of leave should use the Graduate School’s standard leave of absence form, which requests that students articulate their reason/s for taking a leave on a separate page.

We are also committed to supporting women who are pursuing the advanced degrees that will prepare them for leadership positions in academia, industry, and government. It is important to acknowledge that a woman’s childbearing years are often the same years she is in graduate school. The childbirth accommodation policy described here is designed to partially ameliorate the intrinsic conflict between the “biological” and the “research” clocks for female graduate students. While this leave is primarily designed for female students giving birth, it also covers one parent for the adoption of an infant.

The family leave policy aims to provide a way of “stopping the clock” for graduate students facing special family needs that require their full-time attention. While the childbirth accommodation policy covers female students giving birth and one parent during the early weeks of adoption of an infant, the family leave policy allows student fathers and co-parents to take necessary time for family care.

The childbirth accommodation and family leave policies establish minimum standards for accommodation for graduate students giving birth or having family emergencies. It is expected that advisors, academic staff, and departmental leaders will work with sensitivity and imagination to provide more than this minimum (as some are already doing), according to the particular circumstances of the student.

Taking care of an infant is time-consuming and sleep depriving, so advisors need to have realistic expectations about rates of progress on research. For their part, new parents or students “stopping the clock” for a Family Leave should keep the lines of communication with their departments open. Once they return to full-time status, they should be careful to demonstrate to their advisors that they are academically engaged and making progress on coursework and research. Nothing in the Childbirth Accommodation and Family Leave policies replaces the communication and cooperation between student and their programs, and the good-faith efforts of both to accommodate family needs. It is the intention of these policies to reinforce the importance of that cooperation, and to provide support where needed to make that accommodation possible.

Childbirth Accommodation
A student in a graduate program at Brown who anticipates giving birth or adopting an infant during the academic semester, or during the period covered by stipend support, is eligible for an academic accommodation period, normally eight weeks. This period will typically cover late-stage pregnancy, delivery, and post-natal recuperation, and may also cover the process of adoption. The student should initiate discussions with the advisor(s) and director of graduate study (DGS) at least four months prior to the anticipated birth in order to make arrangements for arranging and identifying the childbirth accommodation period. This will provide the time necessary to rearrange teaching duties for those students supported by teaching assistantships, or to adjust laboratory or other research schedules.

One of the purposes of the childbirth accommodation policy is to make it possible for women to maintain their full-time student status so that they continue accumulating credits toward the degree, and to avoid triggering any interruptions in on-campus housing, insurance coverage, eligibility for student loan repayment, and deferment of student loan repayment. By remaining full-time students, the visa status of international students is not affected. While it is usually better for the student to remain enrolled full-time, in some cases, depending on the coursework appropriate to the stage of the academic program, part-time enrollment may be more appropriate. This will require careful consultation, in advance, to ensure that the implications for academic progress, visa status, loan eligibility and deferment, etc. have been thoroughly investigated.

Student parents on full-time status who receive stipends from Graduate School or program funds are entitled to draw support while on leave for eight weeks during the academic year. If the student parent is a teaching assistant, the Graduate School will fund a replacement teacher for the affected period. Students in master’s programs will need to coordinate the fulfillment of requirements with their advisors, department chairs or DGSs. They may find that arranging a leave of absence for a semester is the best solution.

Eligibility: Female student giving birth, male or female co-parent who is the primary care-giver of a newly born baby, or a male or female student adopting a child. Limit of one parent per family.

Length of Leave: Up to 8 weeks, duration to be determined in consultation with the advisor and DGS.

Financial Terms: Fellowship stipend or TA stipend continues and is funded by the Graduate School. For TAs, the Graduate School will aid in funding replacement teaching, if necessary.

Approval: Paperwork required for a childbirth accommodation leave must be completed with the student’s graduate program, with the Graduate School (see the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, or in the Biology and Bio-medical programs the Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies), and with the Associate Dean of Student Life.

Family Leave of Absence
A student in the Graduate School at Brown University may take an unpaid family leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a child, for childcare, or for care of an immediate family member (spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent) with a serious health condition. Students may take a family leave of absence for one or two semesters.

The student is expected to notify the DGS in writing of his/her plans to take a Family Leave at an early date, so that appropriate arrangements can be made to cover any teaching/research responsibilities.

  • Family leave “stops the clock” on the student’s academic requirements, including service requirements, for the duration of the leave.
  • During the period of family leave, the student may elect to continue his or her student health insurance coverage, but is responsible for the payment of his or her own premiums. Students on approved family leave will retain their Brown University e-mail accounts, library privileges, and building access.
  • Funding commitments from Brown are deferred until the student returns from family leave. Students receiving funding from external sources, such as government grants, are subject to the conditions established by the funding source.
  • Teaching and research requirements will be met by the student following return from family leave.
  • Requests for extension of family leave beyond one year, or for repeated family leaves, may be made. Approval of extensions, deferral of funding and continued academic accommodation is at the discretion of the deans of the Graduate School.

Eligibility: Any currently enrolled student with a family emergency. Limit of one student per family.

Length of Leave: Up to 2 semesters, duration to be determined in consultation with the advisor and DGS.

Financial Terms: No financial support given during the leave period.

Approval: Paperwork required for a family leave must be completed with the student’s graduate program, with the Graduate School (see the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, or in the Biology and Bio-medical programs the Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies), and with the Associate Dean of Student Life.