College of Liberal Arts

Accommodations for College of Liberal Arts Graduate Student Parents

Thu, Nov 5, 2015

This policy statement is an expansion of the policy outlined in Dean Diehl’s letter of August 2, 2012.

We at the College of Liberal Arts are aware that some of our students start or expand families while they are enrolled in our graduate programs. The College offers four types of accommodations for graduate students with growing families. These accommodations, all of them for a long semester or summer, are available to full-time students (enrolled for at least nine credit hours each long semester and three hours in summer). After an accommodation period, students are expected to resume their regular activities and to progress towards their degree as all students in their graduate program. After an accommodation period, faculty are encouraged to remain flexible in their expectations so that students can meet the demands of graduate study while adjusting to new demands in their parental roles.

It is the responsibility of a graduate student anticipating a birth or adoption to inform his or her Graduate Adviser, Graduate Coordinator, and thesis/dissertation or research project supervisor of any anticipated accommodation needs as early as possible, and to submit the required documentation in support of the accommodation request.

If medical conditions indicate that additional accommodations may be necessary, students should contact Services for Students with Disabilities and the Office of Institutional Equity to determine what additional accommodations are reasonable.                                                                                    

1. Academic Accommodations: In cases of childbirth or adoption, graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts will be granted a one-semester extension in the completion of academic responsibilities required for their degree. Academic responsibilities include coursework, qualifying exams, fieldwork, prospectus defense, or any other required academic milestones. Such responsibilities may be postponed either during or immediately following the semester in which the student’s child is born or adopted.

This accommodation is an offshoot of the Provost's "Extension of the Tenure-track Probationary Period" The accommodation is granted for reasons of childbirth or adoption and stops the tenure clock for junior faculty. Likewise, the College’s policy seeks to ensure that new parents among our graduate students will not be penalized for a delay in progress towards their degree, nor will their supervisor or graduate program be asked to answer for such a delay.

2. Teaching Assistant (TA) Accommodations: The College strongly encourages its academic units to provide non-TA/AI support for graduate students during the semester in which a child is born or adopted. If this cannot be done, we encourage our units to appoint new graduate-student parents to TA positions where tasks can be performed in flexible environments and on flexible schedules (e.g., grading, monitoring online activities, maintaining students’ progress records). Students should check with their program’s Graduate Advisor and Graduate Coordinator for information about available TA positions that may be appropriate for their particular situations. The student and Graduate Advisor (or Coordinator), in collaboration with the instructor of record for the class, should agree to review these TA duties on a periodic schedule to ensure that work is being completed in a timely and satisfactorily manner. A TA whose accommodations include performing at least some duties away from campus should review University guidelines regarding telecommuting and may be asked to sign a Telecommuting Agreement.

3. Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) Accommodations: Graduate students who are appointed as GRAs for 20 hours/week or more during a long-semester or summer session may seek approval to carry out modified research duties following the birth or adoption of a child as long as they continue progress towards the goals of their research project, meet the requirements of the external funding agency, and remain in compliance for reporting effort on federal grants, if appropriate. The student and Graduate Advisor (or Coordinator), in collaboration with the faculty member in charge of the research project, should agree to review the modified duties on a periodic schedule to ensure that work is being completed in a timely and satisfactory manner.

4. Parental Leave: In some cases, a complete break from all employment responsibilities may be most appropriate for new graduate-student parents. Benefits-eligible graduate student employees who continue to meet eligibility requirements for employment are entitled to Parental Leave of up to twelve weeks following the birth of a child or an adoption or foster-care placement of a child under age three. This leave is unpaid, and – unless the student qualifies for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – employee health insurance premium sharing is unavailable for any full month of leave (see the Human Resources Parental Leave webpage.)

Please note that “parental leave” refers to a leave of absence from employment, and is distinct from an academic leave of absence requested from the Graduate School. Doctoral students may seek academic leave of absence due to childbirth even when they are in candidacy, provided that they apply for such a leave in advance. OGS considers a leave under these circumstances as one of the “rare and unusual circumstances” that allow for a leave. Before seeking such a leave, though, students are advised to consider the implications of a leave status (no use of campus facilities, no health insurance eligibility, no work with faculty and staff, and the like).

General Notes:

As with all academic employee appointments, future financial support is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress as defined by the student's academic unit, satisfactory job performance as defined by the employing unit, and the availability of funds/positions.

International students may have to satisfy additional obligations; they should contact the International Office for further information.

In the event that a student’s request for accommodation is denied, the student may appeal to the Liberal Arts Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, who will investigate the appeal in coordination with the College Human Resources staff and the Graduate Coordinator in the student’s academic unit.


If you are a graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts who would like to take advantage of the parental accommodation, please complete and submit the Academic Accommodation Form for Graduate Student Parents to Erica Whittington (whittington@austin.utexas.edu) in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

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