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Rice should expand its parental leave policy to all

By Thresher Editorial Board     10/26/21 10:43pm

Two years ago, the Thresher extensively covered discrepancies in Rice’s maternity leave policies in regards to their treatment of faculty and staff. Specifically, we called for Rice to equalize its maternity leave policies. In addition, we were reminded that Rice’s maternity leave policy discriminates between tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, and that the conversation should be centered around parental leave instead of just maternity leave. 

We are here again two years later to remind you that almost nothing has changed. Rice still does not offer paid leave for non-birthing parents who are staff or non-tenure-track faculty, while tenure-track faculty receive only one semester of full pay if they declare themselves as the primary caregiver, according to Rice Policy 204. In addition, men can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as is required by the Family Medical Leave Act, and are offered no paid paternity leave — unless, of course, they have tenure.

This is by no means a Rice-specific problem; debate surrounding paid time off for parents is a national issue. But we still trail some of our peer institutions, who provide substantially better parental leave benefits. Duke University offers its staff six consecutive weeks leave at full pay for any parent, biological or otherwise, with newly placed children. Vanderbilt University and Emory University provide their staff with two and three weeks leave with full pay, respectively.

In Texas, most institutions also do not provide pay to non-birthing staff or non-tenure-track faculty seeking parental leave. However, somehow, Southern Methodist University provides up to six weeks paid leave to birthing parents, two weeks paid leave for non-birthing parents and three weeks paid leave for adopting parents. We urge the administration to reflect on why Rice cannot pursue similar policies to a private university with less financial leeway than Rice, given SMU’s endowment is less than one-third the size of Rice’s.

Distinguishing the amount of leave between staff, non-tenure-track faculty and tenure-track faculty inherently implies a difference in the worth of each group and their contributions to the university. Rice clearly understands the value of paid parental leave — why is it not extended outside of just tenured faculty?

A 2019 letter to the editor by several Rice professors called for a need to extend parental leave policies to men. To quote those 12 women directly: “fairness in parental leave policies for all members of the Rice community serves the mission and values of our institution.” It is long overdue for Rice to meet other peer institutions in providing extended parental leave policies not only for tenure-track faculty, but for staff and non-tenure-track faculty as well.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Ivanka Perez, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage and Daniel Schrager. Editor-in-chief Savannah Kuchar has been recused from this editorial due to reporting on the corresponding story in our news section. 

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