Stanford reaches out to new moms

If students at Stanford University are noticing more moms-to-be on their campus this semester, it’s not because there’s more love in the air than usual.

In a rare move, Stanford administrators recently outlined a child-birth policy to help accommodate pregnant graduate students.

The policy, effective immediately, makes provisions for female students who have to deal with the demands of late-stage pregnancy, child birth and caring for a newborn.

Stanford adopted the policy in an effort to increase the number of women pursuing advanced degrees – one of the university’s top priorities, according to a university statement.

Women who are anticipating or experiencing a birth are eligible to postpone course assignments, examinations, and other academic requirements for two academic quarters, and they will remain eligible for access to Stanford facilities, health care and housing.

Pregnant graduate students will also be excused from their duties as teaching assistants and resident advisors for six weeks.

Administrators say the policy “is designed to partially ameliorate the intrinsic conflict between the ‘biological’ and the ‘research’ and ‘training’ clocks for women graduate students.”

Gail Mahood, a professor of geological and environmental sciences and associate dean for graduate policy, played a significant role in shaping the policy and said she expects about 30 women to participate in the program each year and estimated the total cost would be “less than $100,000.”

“I want to emphasize that this academic-accommodation period is not a leave of absence,” she said. “We are expecting that the woman, to the extent that her health and the health of the infant will allow, will be in residence and will participate in course work and research – even if it is at a somewhat lower level than prior to the birth.”

Mahood said that the university was not considering a similar option for males, adding that the university was responding to “distinct differences in biology.”

Stanford administrators said they were aware of only one other university that makes similar provisions for students – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and said that MIT’s plan was used as a basis for Stanford’s policy.

In August 2005, Princeton University enacted a policy that automatically grants male and female faculty more time to pursue tenure after the birth of a child, but it does not make special provisions for female students like the Stanford and MIT policies.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.