EDITORIAL: Equalize GU Parental Leave

Academic hierarchy should not determine faculty members’ ability to raise their children. After years of dismissing the concerns of its employees, Georgetown University must take action now to strengthen crucial benefits for nontenured professors. Last month, Provost Robert Groves received a petition signed by 282 individuals asking the university to increase parental leave of full-time nontenured faculty to equal that of their tenured counterparts. The university is seriously considering the proposal, according to Groves. Under current policy, female nontenured faculty receive only eight weeks of leave; men are not granted paid leave in any scenario. Nontenured faculty are also not permitted to take any paid leave after adopting children. Georgetown must implement the policies requested in the petition to bridge an unnecessary divide between faculty members, all of whom deserve support from their employer. The university should also adopt a more proactive stance on ensuring workers’ rights across campus, instead of waiting for workers themselves to be driven to activism by cumbersome — and avoidable — situations. The petition calls for Georgetown to grant a full semester of paid leave to all faculty members “who will be the primary caregiver of a child” within a year after the child is born, or for an adopted child 5 years or younger. Paid leave policies had positive effects on children’s well-being and public health, in addition to “parents’ incomes and job stability and employers’ productivity,” according to a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Parents and newborn — or newly adopted — children need and deserve time together. By restricting paid leave for nontenured faculty, Georgetown is actively hampering its employees’ home lives. Implementing the simple changes requested in the petition would take better care of current faculty and foster a better workplace for future employees. Georgetown should also take this opportunity to counteract its own historical narrative of dismissing workers’ concerns. The three full-time nontenured faculty members who delivered the petition — Turkish professor Sylvia Önder, School of Foreign Service professor Clare Fieseler (SFS ’06), and Astrid Weigert, chair of the Joint Main Campus Committee on Full-Time Non-Tenure Issues — have raised the issue to the provost’s office for the past four years. This delay demonstrates a fundamental disinterest in meeting faculty’s needs. Georgetown’s long-overdue consideration of this proposal arrives amid progress on other issues related to faculty organizing behind their own rights. The nearly 1,100 graduate student assistants at Georgetown yesterday concluded a vote on whether to unionize. This election itself is an enormous victory as it follows two years of opposition from the university. Just last year, in fact, Georgetown argued its relationship with graduate students was purely academic and denied them the benefits of the Just Employment Policy. Only after sustained student organizing and protest did the university reconsider the validity of its employees’ claims, culminating in this week’s vote. The university also improved benefits for adjunct faculty in 2017, but only after extended negotiations and a weekslong gap after the expiration of the original agreement, which left adjuncts in limbo and unsure of their standing. Even after advocacy and negotiation, however,  adjunct pay at Georgetown trails the earnings of adjuncts at peer universities, according to past reporting in The Hoya. The average Georgetown adjunct is paid $7,750 per three-credit course, while Duke University, for example, pays adjuncts $8,207 for the same workload. Georgetown’s current administration has a clear record of delaying action on workers’ rights and benefits until activism leaves it with no other option but to support its employees. Now, the university has an opportunity to reverse course. By finally increasing necessary benefits for full-time, nontenured faculty, the university can start on a path of active engagement with workers. Going forward, however, Georgetown must be proactive in understanding and addressing workers’ rights concerns. The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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