EDITORIAL: U. should improve paid-leave policies
Rutgers can spearhead better circumstances for faculty
Rutgers has made many strides toward upholding its reputation as a progressive University. With its high ranking in economic mobility, its appointment of the first openly gay dean of the School of Public Health, University President Robert L. Barchi pushing back against the efforts to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and now a norm of themed football games, the University is doing well to create a well-rounded, all-inclusive and fun atmosphere for its students. But the University’s faculty union is attempting to improve circumstances for the staff, especially “regarding family leave and disability resulting from pregnancy.”
The University’s current method for handling paid leave for employees aligns with what is mandated by state and federal law. This includes six weeks of paid recuperative leave, eight weeks of paid leave for birth mothers and eight weeks of paid leave for spouses and partners. This contract is being negotiated by the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), which hopes to improve the details of paid leave.
The AAUP-AFT recognizes that there are many advantages to the policies already put in place, but has expressed the concerns that certain aspects can be improved greatly. This is why there is also an “appointed liaison” that ensures that the policies run smoothly within the different departments. In fact, the disparities amongst the different departments are some of the biggest concerns of the faculty at Rutgers.
The departments at the University that are smaller and consist of fewer faculty members are often overlooked because it becomes difficult to find qualified people to fill in for the staff that requires paid leave. With smaller budgets that do not allow for the hiring of part-time lecturers, the University ends up having to put time constraints on the leave that staff might take.
The issues with paid leave are not something that is specific to Rutgers. The United States has one of the worst options for paid maternity leave in the world. And with the bare minimum offered by state and federal law, it is up to the employer as to what they want to give. And with Rutgers already having staff satisfied with its policies for leave, it seems as though it has taken a step in the right direction. But much more must be done.
If Rutgers wants to continue to be the progressive institution, then it must take this issue as an opportunity to do so and spearhead this initiative. Unfortunately, paid maternity leave is based heavily on one's gender and their role in a family rather than the financial needs one has. For example, paid maternity leave benefits “birth mothers” rather than surrogates or adoptive mothers, which blurs the lines. Although they require the same amount of time and attention for their new children, their needs are not accommodated for, or at least not specified.
The best way for Rutgers to keep its qualified employees is to provide for them. This includes being more flexible with paid leave. Rutgers can make great advances in paid leave if they choose to, it is just up to the University to decide how.