Last week, Anonymous posted an update about her attempts to secure a paid maternity leave from her university. (If you recall, I posted her story a few weeks ago detailing her efforts to get a leave for the fall term.) Guess what? After nearly six months of wrangling as her belly grows, she’s down to this: she’ll get paid, but she’s not going to be on leave! Take it away, Anonymous:
I agree that perhaps it was unbelievably naive of me to imagine that the chair and the dean could clearly and legally and fully explain to me the policies relating to leave (which as other posters have explained are NOT clearly laid out either in the faculty handbook or on the HR sight, which is actually incomprehensible). Since the chair frequently handles requests for leave, it seemed sensible to imagine this was part of his job description, rather than an imposition I was making on him. Had I known what a fierce and complex struggle this would be, I would certainly have approached it differently. But considering my previous experience at a different university, at which my request for leave was handled by the chair and treated as utterly pro forma, perhaps I had *some reasonable expectation* of a similar outcome.
It is worth repeating what has been noted before in these comments: the university as a whole has no parental leave policy other than FMLA. What people need to understand is that colleges and universities and even departments often rely on informal or extra-formal procedures for dealing with such leaves, which makes them by definition undefinable and ad hoc. My college does not consider what I am taking to be maternity leave or parental leave – it is not classified as such, even though this is what they offer faculty in place of FMLA. FMLA is unpaid of course but it also causes many logistical problems for those of us on a semester-based system – since FMLA would require the university to reinstate me full time and full pay near the end of a semester, when it would simply not be possible for a professor to begin teaching.
Honestly, if I had understood clearly what the outcome of all these months of negotiating would be, I probably would have insisted instead on taking FMLA leave and sucked up the financial loss. I was recently informed that the amount of work that I would be expected to perform while on “leave” would have to “adequately compensate” the university for such leave – to wit, that I would be expected to perform as close to a full work load as they could give me without teaching. I’m not sure therefore why [the university] offer[s] this “benefit” of course releases if [its] main concern is extracting an equivalent or near-equivalent amount of work. I won’t enumerate the expectations for my work load while on leave, but they are onerous indeed. . . . [P]arental leave (i.e. leave during which a parent acts as a primary caregiver for a brand new human being) does not exist at my university.
There you have it, friends. In my opinion, Anonymous is being set up to fail. She’ll be expected to do all of the service work while “on leave,” and my guess is that if she doesn’t continue to publish at the same rate next year, she’ll be dinged in her annual review for failing in her research agenda “even though we granted her a paid leave!” Alternatively, if she slacks on the service and spends whatever time she has away from her newborn infant madly writing and researching so that she doesn’t fall behind with her publications, she’ll be criticized as being uncollegial and untrustworthy, a very bad girl, and moreover used as an example for why they can’t possibly offer paid family leave ever again.
You can’t win, Anonymous. You have no power. They have all of the money and the power to shape the narrative about you. (I’m sorry, Anonymous–I know this isn’t what you want to hear ever, or think about right now in particular.) My advice? Take your leave. Spend your non-baby hours on updating your C.V. and apply for every job out there in the fall. Take it from someone who knows: living well is the best revenge!