Committee further studies feasibility of parental leave

A second, specialized group will study proposals made by the Committee on Work-Life Balance - the task force recently charged with changing faculty parental leave policies at UC Davis.

Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef and Jeff Gibeling, chair of the Academic Senate, will appoint Vice Provost for Faculty Relations Barbara Horwitz, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Pat Turner, a representative from the Office of Resource Management and Planning, and three members of the Academic Senate to study the family-leave recommendations made by the work-life committee. That 15-member committee's ranks included mostly faculty.

"We needed to have some people closer to the action to decide what recommendations we can implement and what we cannot," Vanderhoef said. "It's a small group of people who can speak to the practicality of these ideas."

The work-life committee was created after complaints by campus faculty that parental leave and modified duty regulations were not equitably applied across campus.

In February, 89 UC Davis professors signed a petition directed to campus administration calling for changes in family-leave procedures at UC Davis. In April, Vanderhoef and Gibeling appointed the work-life committee to make some suggestions.

According to current UC regulations, a faculty member's department chair or dean determines how long - beyond the federally mandated six weeks - a new mother or father can take leave, or can be placed on "modified duty." That generally allows a professor to receive his or her full salary but be freed from some teaching or committee duties.

But with some smaller departments unable to fund or find teaching replacements, and some chairs and deans better informed on maternity policies than others, leaves have been granted in an uneven manner, according to the petition letter.

The work-life committee, chaired by Emily Goldman, associate professor of political science, and Diane Wolf, associate professor of sociology, wrapped up its work at the end of June.

Among other suggestions, the group has recommended designating a central contact person within the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel to provide information to faculty members and deans about parental leave policies. "We felt there should be a central contact that people could go to on the issues," Goldman said. "Right now it's spread out."

The group also proposed ensuring progress through faculty ladder ranks may be interrupted for up to two years for parental leaves, at any and all academic steps.

Currently, assistant professors up for review have had the option of extending the "tenure clock" after a birth or adoption. Post-tenure faculty up for merits or promotions haven't had that luxury, Goldman said.

"Many (tenured) women faculty felt they weren't ready to have their file reviewed because they just had children," she said.

Other recommendations include:

  • creation of a central pool of funds for department chairs and deans to draw upon during faculty leaves;
  • making the total period of leave and modified duties one year, with faculty members receiving full salary and benefits. For the first six months members would not teach or perform administrative duties. For the next six months they would have modified duties;
  • having a campus committee discuss a policy related to multiple births;
  • having the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel provide training on work-life balance issues for faculty members, chairs and deans; and
  • creating a Campus Advisory Committee on Work-Life Issues to advise campus leaders on the needs and concerns of UC Davis faculty and staff members, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students and their families.

"We made a lot of progress," Goldman said of her committee's work. "These things, if they are implemented, can really make a difference for people far into the future."

Vanderhoef praised the committee for compiling a solid list of recommendations.

The second committee will begin its work during the fall quarter. Vanderhoef says he expects the group to complete recommendations by the end of the quarter. Then, work will begin on another task force to address the family needs of staff, faculty and graduate students.

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Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

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