The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate and Yale School of Medicine Faculty Advisory Council on Tuesday sent a letter to University Provost Ben Polak requesting the implementation of changes to faculty parental policies recommended in reports released almost two years ago.
In the spring of 2016, the FAS Senate sent a report to Polak highlighting ambiguities and inequities within existent guidelines for faculty parental leave policies and putting forward 16 specific recommendations for reform. And that December, the Yale School of Medicine Faculty Advisory Council released a report on the same topic, which included the results of a Medical School faculty-wide survey and similar recommendations for policy change.
Two years later, virtually none of the recommendations set forth in either of the reports have been implemented, according to FAS Senators and School of Medicine faculty members interviewed by the News. In response, the Senate and the medical school faculty members sent a letter requesting that the Provost’s Office implement five specific changes to current policies on teaching relief, parental benefits and tenure-clock extensions given after the birth or adoption of a child by the beginning of next academic term on July 1, 2018.
Proposed changes include giving parental leave on a per-parent rather than a per-child basis and revoking the requirement that faculty members with non-faculty spouses prove that they are the primary caregiver by verifying their spouse’s employment in order to receive parental leave benefits. Under the current policy, if both parents are Yale faculty members they are required to divide up the same benefits that are given to one parent with a non-Yale affiliated spouse.
University spokesman Tom Conroy did not respond to request for comment on this story in time for publication.
The letter represents a unified faculty response in light of increasing frustrations over the lack of change in parental policy. Together, the elected representatives of the FAS Senate and the School of Medicine faculty, who unanimously approved the letter, account for about 3,300 of Yale’s faculty members, or over 80 percent of the faculty body.
Despite the significant amount of time that faculty members have spent researching and articulating the proposals, the provost’s office has failed to take action, said Chair of the FAS Senate and American Studies professor Matthew Jacobson. According to Jacobson, the proposed policy changes are not outrageous; they would merely help the University catch up to its peers.
“These changes will bring Yale into alignment with its peer institutions, improve the equitable application of policy, and reduce the legal exposure that comes from inconsistently applied and underfunded policies,” states the letter, a copy of which was sent to the News. “Yale should be a leader in equity and inclusion in this area. As it pertains to parental leave, we are not a 21st century university. Until we are, the cultural costs and personnel losses will be significant.”
The letter also asks for consistency across schools and equity across ranks with respect to the length of paid leave. While currently only ladder faculty can take a semester-long leave, the letter requests that all teaching faculty receive teaching relief on a per-semester basis instead of the current eight-week leave. In addition, the letter requests that research faculty members and clinical faculty members in the medical school be able to take their prescribed eight-week leave without pressure to pay back or arrange for others to cover their responsibilities.
According to Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine and member of the faculty executive committee Kirsten Bechtel, clinical faculty — who spend a large proportion of their time seeing patients in the hospital — must make up the clinical time lost before or after they go on leave, forcing them to “compress” clinical sessions into an extremely short time period.
To end the practice of compressing clinical sessions, the letter requests the establishment of a dedicated fund to provide salary support to help departments hire additional clinical staff or pay current staff to fill in for clinical faculty members on parental leave. In addition, the letter recommends that all faculty member requests regarding parental benefits be submitted to central figures within specific schools and should not be handled by chairs of local units. While the medical school already has such a figure — Director of Academic Analytics Tracy Larmer — the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is still requesting one.
Since the publication of the FAS Senate’s report in 2016, both the Senate and the School of Medicine Advisory Council have been working with their respective dean’s offices to change the culture around parental leave. But according to history professor Bill Rankin, the lead author of the 2016 report, members of the FAS Senate have not seen any changes implemented since they began meeting with the provost’s office regularly in the fall of 2016.
“It’s unclear why there has been so much delay,” Rankin said. “Whenever we’ve met with the provost’s office, they have stressed complexity, financial and data unknowns and the need for more comparisons with other universities, so we have been told to check back again in a couple of months. We do understand that things take time, but after two years I would at least hope for some preliminary answers. Instead we’re still waiting.”
The School of Medicine Advisory Council, on the other hand, had been successful in collaborating with School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern to develop a revised parental policy, which was set to be implemented at the beginning of this year. But in January, Alpern notified the council that the provost’s office had blocked the policy. The administration, Yale New Haven hospital and the faculty had all approved the revised policy, which, according to Chair of the Council and cell biology professor Megan King, would not have meant any budgetary changes for the University.
According to Paula Kavathas, a professor of laboratory medicine, of immunology and of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the former chair of the Women Faculty Forum, faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine have spent hours working on the reports, sharing policy information from peer institutions, conducting large surveys and analyzing data to develop better policies for a number of years. When those policy recommendations simply disappear without being enacted or rejected, it creates a climate unconducive to both faculty participation and a good working environment, said Linguistic Professor and Chair of the WFF Claire Bowern.
Kavathas blamed the delay on the Provost’s Office’s failure to prioritize rectifying the current parental policies.
“We are hoping that by the FAC and FASS joining together and letting the community know of this serious problem that the Provost office will give it the priority it deserves,” she said.
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