Ohio University President Duane Nellis announced Friday the creation of a new Parental Paid Leave of Absence policy for graduate students.

“The policy, which is anticipated to become effective Fall Semester 2018, will provide funded graduate students the ability to take up to a six-week leave of absence from their appointment responsibilities,” Nellis wrote in a news release. “(Graduate students will) receive 100 percent of the stipend and other benefits associated with their appointment, for the birth or adoption of a child.”

OU Graduate Student Senate President Maria Modayil said creating a policy like this one was a goal for her ticket while running for GSS president, and she has been working closely with Nellis and Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer about the policy. When brought to Graduate Council, Modayil said the original concern was who would fund the policy. 

“In my conversations with (Shaffer), she said the plan with administration was to fund that centrally through the president's office or the VPFA’s office,” Modayil said. “I was able to go to that meeting on Dec. 8 with the knowledge that it would be funded. This is where there was a lot of pressure taken off of Grad. Council.”

Stephen Bergmeier, chair of both Graduate Council and the chemistry and biochemistry department, said he was excited about the university’s announcement. 

“It’s an issue that has come up numerous times, where students have had to take parental leave and departments have to, sort of, backfill with whatever resources they may or may not have,” Bergmeier said. “I think the president deciding to put some additional money into this, I think that’s a great thing.”

Nellis wrote that the university would centrally fund replacement costs for assistantship support so OU’s colleges will not have “any added financial responsibility as a result of the Parental Paid Leave of Absence program.” 

OU’s Graduate Employee Organization has been advocating for paid parental leave as one of its four core issues since Fall Semester. Elliot Long, co-president of the Graduate Employee Organization, said he is thrilled that the university is taking a step to support graduate parents. 

“I am a parent of a 2-year-old, and this policy would have helped my family tremendously after he was born,” Long said in an email. “Being both a graduate student and a parent is difficult, but I am glad that graduate students who decide to become parents in the future will have more institutional support and will not have to make such difficult choices.”

In a previous Letter to the Editor, Long said the lack of this policy caused him to work rather than taking a leave of absence to avoid losing his student health insurance coverage as well as his assistantship. Fortunately, his professors allowed for him to receive incompletes in his courses while facing complications in the pregnancy. 

“We had not planned on a long and difficult labor that lasted three days and resulted in a cesarean section,” Long said. “Four weeks after giving birth, still swollen and recovering from surgery but with the incision mostly healed, I was back in the classroom teaching.”

The Graduate Employee Organization put out a report Oct. 1 comparing OU to its peer institutions and found that half of them provide paid parental leave for graduate students, and found Ohio State University did as well, he said. Long said he approached Joseph Shields, Dean of the Graduate College about this policy in September.

“Our report … requested that Ohio University use Ohio State's policy as a blueprint for an Ohio University graduate paid parental leave policy,” Long said in an email. “The Graduate Employee Organization appreciates Dean Shields working so quickly with Graduate Council to draft and implement a policy in order to better support graduate students at Ohio University.”

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