On the morning of Oct. 8, professors woke up to a surprise announcement from University Provost Scott Strobel that non-ladder instructional faculty are now eligible for a full semester of paid parental leave — an increase from the eight-week maximum previously offered.
The announcement allows non-ladder instructional faculty to receive similar benefits as ladder staffers, who, according to the faculty handbook, already have Teaching Relief for Child Rearing for an entire semester. It follows years of organizational efforts by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate, individual instructional faculty members and other advocacy groups, such as Yale’s Working Women’s Network and Women Faculty Forum.
“I recognize this is a particularly challenging time for those who care for young children,” Strobel wrote in the email to faculty announcing the policy change. “I hope this new policy helps ease some [of] the burdens faced by new faculty parents.”
According to Sybil Alexandrov, a Spanish senior lector and FAS Senate member, the announcement was completely unexpected; in meetings with different administrators, Alexandrov said, there was no discussion that the policy would ever change.
Alexandrov joined the FAS Senate in 2016 primarily because she wanted to work on issues of childcare and equity. Since then, the senate has passed three separate reports, most recently in 2019, that include parental issues.
“When the announcement was made, everyone’s reaction wasn’t just ‘finally,’ but rather ‘wow’,” Alexandrov told the News. “It was completely unexpected but obviously welcome.”
FAS Senator and associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology Valerie Horsley wrote a social media post expressing how happy she was upon receiving the news. In the post, Horsley added that her colleague cried upon receiving the policy announcement.
In an email to the News, Horsley wrote that the decision was necessary and recognized that supporting instructional faculty aids in both their family and professional lives.
Furthermore, Alexandrov noted that the decision also helps students who would otherwise experience transitions in course leadership due to the eight-week maximum of paid parental leave. With the previous policy, students might have formed relationships with their professors, who — because they could only take eight weeks off — would pass the course off to another faculty member and potentially even return before the semester ends.
“Someone can’t just come in that easily,” Alexandrov told the News. “[The students] need that continuity.”
However, faculty interviewed by the News also said that this policy, while welcome, is not enough to address larger childcare issues at Yale, which are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Marta Figlerowicz, FAS senator and associate professor of comparative literature and English, told the News that these childcare issues fall into a larger problem — Yale’s lack of recognition of domestic labor.
Similarly, Naomi Rogers, chair of the WFF and a Yale professor, described the policy announcement as “just a part” of a larger issue.
“This is not the only way that Yale needs to address the issues that COVID in particular has raised, where a large number of people at Yale had made quite delicate balances between their childcare responsibilities and their work responsibilities,” Rogers said.
Rogers pointed to two reports authored this summer by the WFF and WWN, which proposed actions that Yale should take to help alleviate the burdens of working parents at the University. They both requested additional relief for instructional and non-tenured faculty, along with a general expansion of parental relief, teaching reductions, a compressed workweek, financial support for childcare and more.
To help pursue these goals, the two advocacy groups recently formed a committee, where they will continue to work towards larger childcare-related policy goals.
“We cannot continue living, working, and parenting like this,” the WWN report read. “We are suffering. Our children are suffering. The teachers of our children are suffering.”
Along with the new committee, the FAS Senate will continue to organize around the issue of childcare, as well as to help iron out specific procedural questions surrounding the recent policy.
Figlerowicz told the News that some of the policy’s details are still being discussed still with the provost — such as how parental leave will work if a faculty member gives birth midway through the semester. She added that the senate encouraged people to send questions to the provost.
Even so, four faculty members interviewed by the News mentioned relief and happiness that this policy, even if a small part of a larger issue, was adopted.
“I have a daughter who is not an academic and is never going to teach at Yale,” Alexandrov told the News. “But I would like to think I’m leaving her generation in a better place.”
The WFF was established in 2001.
Madison Hahamy | firstname.lastname@example.org