The Student News Site of Clemson University

The Tiger

The Tiger

The Tiger

Faculty Senate moves on parental leave

Clemson University Faculty Senate is working with Human Resources to develop new parental leave options, according to Chairperson of the Faculty Senate Welfare Committee Dr. Matthew Powers. Paid parental leave is not currently offered by the university.
“We have been pursuing what we consider the best option, which is to create a modified duties plan,” Powers said. This plan would benefit parents who are giving birth to or adopting a child, as well as all faculty members with long-term medical illnesses and disabilities.
Powers said that under the modified duties plan, faculty members would “agree to do work that they could do at home on a schedule that benefits them and ensures that they don’t have to come to the university for five hours a day.”
Current parental leave policy at Clemson is in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law passed in 1993. The law mandates that public agencies offer 12 workweeks of unpaid leave per year for “the birth of a child and to care for the newborn within one year of birth.” Clemson follows FMLA guidelines by offering up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for childbirth, adoption and foster care to faculty members who have worked one year or 1,250 hours in the previous year. 
“[Full paid leave] presents many challenges, including costs,” Powers said. “The time frame is also difficult in the context of the unpredictability of birth.”
Power to mandate paid leave rests with the states. Only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island offer paid family and medical leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Lisa Gagnon, benefits manager in human resources, said, “It’s mandated consistently across all South Carolina agencies that South Carolina does not offer paid parental leave.” Gagnon noted that Clemson is a state agency.
Clemson offers paid sick leave, as mandated by the state of South Carolina. Faculty can use accrued sick hours for maternity and adoption, according to Human Resources’ retirement and leave options. Because sick hours are based on time worked and are also used for illnesses, medical/dental appointments and surgeries, the availability is variable.
Dr. Amy Sawyer, a French language professor, said that when she was pregnant she worried about running out of sick days before the end of the semester.
“I had to plan my pregnancy so I would have a final exam baby,” Sawyer said. “Paid parental leave would help families enormously.”
Sawyer also recounted the experience of a colleague.
“[A friend of mine] had poor performance ratings due to her pregnancy and was worried about losing her job,” Sawyer said.
The idea to propose changing Clemson’s parental leave policy occurred to Undergraduate Student Senator Bailey Pitts when one of her professors got pregnant.
“[My classmates and I] were all excited for her,” Pitts said. The professor told the class that she would only take one week off work to avoid losing income.
“She was sad because she wouldn’t get much time with her newborn baby,” Pitts said.
Pitts, a junior psychology major, was surprised that paid maternity leave was not an option for her professor: “I thought all businesses had some sort of paid 
maternity leave.”
As a member of the academic affairs committee, Sen. Pitts approached Dr. Powers.
“He told me that the issue was pretty much solved with the modified duties plan,” Pitts said. 
Powers told The Tiger that a student senator interested in the issue of parental leave contacted him, but that the Faculty Senate “is not working in conjunction with CUSG.”
Pitts said Powers suggested looking for other ways to make positive change on campus.
“He thought it might be a good idea to see if parental leave might benefit student employees,” Pitts said. Pitts is currently researching the need for student parental leave.
Powers said that Human Resources is reviewing the modified duties plan. Gagnon from Human Resources confirmed.
“We are in the final stages in completing work with the Faculty Senate to allow more flexibility for faculty members,” Gagnon said.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Clemson University . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Tiger

Comments (0)

All The Tiger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *