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Parental Accommodations Policy

Policy for Parental Accommodations

The Vanderbilt Graduate School policy guarantees Ph.D. students a minimum level of accommodation during the transition to parenthood, specifically, for students with substantial parenting responsibility as a result of childbirth, care of newborn(s), or a newly adopted child. A graduate student primary caregiver designated as having substantial parental responsibility may be relieved of full-time graduate duties and responsibilities for up to six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.

If both parents are Vanderbilt graduate students, only one may take parental leave. The parental leave provided by this policy may be taken during the semester in which the child is born or adopted, or during any subsequent semester that begins no later than six months after the birth or adoption.

Students benefitting from accommodation are relieved of full-time academic and program responsibilities such as teaching and research assistant duties and coursework during the six-week period. Coursework assignments and examinations will be rescheduled to avoid conflicts with the accommodation period and to provide reasonable time thereafter to complete academic requirements. If the timing of the accommodation period proves too disruptive to satisfactory progress in coursework, the student may drop the course and retake it another semester.

As soon as possible upon return, the student must provide her or his departmental chair with (a) a copy of a birth certificate or, (b) in the case of adoption, written certification of child adoption from the adoption agency.

The Graduate School policy is described in full here.

Departmental policy: The department will exercise flexibility in making accommodations in such a way that is not in conflict with Graduate School policies and requirements. Beyond the official six-week accommodation period, the student may request up to a one-semester delay in post-coursework requirements, including the second-year paper, comprehensive examinations, the prospectus defense, and, with a petition subject to the approval of the Graduate School, the deadline for entrance into candidacy at the beginning of the fourth year. The student should consult with the DGS in planning such arrangements.

It is important to note that parental accommodation is not a leave of absence. Students benefitting from accommodation are expected to maintain registration, remain in communication with their advisor and/or the DGS, and perform limited academic work as possible (e.g., reading) outside of the six-week leave period, assuming the good health of the student and the child(ren). They may be asked to do research assistant duties outside of the six-week leave period.

Students seeking accommodation should inform the DGS in writing at least three (3) months before accommodation is anticipated, unless unforeseen circumstances arise or religious reasons preclude doing so. The written request must indicate the expected birth or adoption date. The DGS will submit the student’s request for accommodation to the Graduate School and work with the student to exercise flexibility.