Thursday, April 5, 2007

A good start...

Princeton is taking a good step in being more family friendly for graduate students. What is being offered according to Insider Higher Education:

"Three months of paid maternity leave, along with extensions of academic deadlines and fellowships, so leave time does not count against any limits on time to receive financial support or finish degrees.

Child care support of up to $5,000 a year per child (for up to two children).

Additional funds to pay for child care — either at home or on site — when graduate students need to travel for academic conferences or other events related to degree programs.

Additional funds to pay for back-up child care when regular child care is not available.

Mortgage assistance, which can be used anywhere in the country, that would reduce both points and closing costs for graduate students purchasing real estate."

It is a good first step. One of the negatives if you look closer on the Princeton site is that it focuses with regards to time off on birth mothers or primary caregivers. The way it is worded a father could take time off instead of the mother, if he becomes the primary caregiver (and this is all assuming a traditional heterosexual relationship; what of those who adopt? homosexual couples?). Ideally, they should have time off for both parents with the expectation that they both actually use it. Right now the burden still is primarily on the woman when it comes to family matters, which means the system favors men staying in academia (especially in the sciences) regardless of the benefits. If you really want to change things that has to be addressed. What also needs to be addressed is the attitude of advisors. If an advisor looks down on time off and gives a student a hard time, what recourse can students take? Are the universities going to be proactive and educate their faculty to respect students taking time-off to be with family? In order for this effort to really be successful those have to be addressed, especially when you have many faculty who have a "back in my day" mentality when it comes to families and maintain the nonsense of "needing to work 80 hours/week". By the way, does anyone actually have evidence for the latter?

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