The Graduate Student Assembly and Texas Horns for Life are crafting University policies to assist student parents with balancing family care and studying.
Only six colleges at UT have an official parental leave policy. Christina Baze, president of the Graduate Student Assembly, said she wants to gain more representation for student parents because they are often not considered a priority.
“I do get the sense that students who are parents are not often considered when decisions are made and policies are implemented,” Baze said. “It really impacts a student’s career when there is a lack of support for parents.”
As a student parent herself, Baze said the most pressing challenges student parents face are child care and academic leave. She said she can balance school and child care because her husband works from home and her children are older, but many parents do not have the same support system.
Baze said common University accommodations for student parents include a maximum of two semesters of leave and one-semester extensions on assignments, and teaching assistants can request flexible hours. Baze said UT students have to negotiate their accommodations with supervisors that may not be receptive.
John Dalton, assistant dean of graduate studies, said the Graduate Education Task Force in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost has compiled the experiences of student parents and recommendations for the administration as part of a larger report on graduate students. The report has already been submitted to the provost’s office.
Dalton said he has advocated for student parents for multiple years. He said he would not recommend University-wide policies because the academic demands of the schools and students will differ, so it is best the students speak with their advisers.
“One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to graduate students,” Dalton said. “Between the student and the supervisor, they come up with a plan. That agreement is then signed off on by the college and school.”
Baze said her goal is to work with administrators to mandate parental accommodations for undergraduate and graduate students throughout the University since the current accommodations are mainly crafted for graduate students.
“My goal is to draft legislation trying to encourage the administration to mandate parental accommodation for all policies and schools,” Baze said. “Ultimately, I would like to see a culture shift for parental support for all students regardless of their classification.”
Cassie Guardiola, Texas Horns for Life president, said she is also working with GSA to advocate for undergraduate student parents, as well as create parking passes for pregnant students.
Marketing senior Guardiola said Texas Horns for Life created a group chat for student parents with the goal of forming a support group. She said the students said they feel largely unsupported by the University.
“The administration has not been very accommodating to these pregnant and parenting students,” Guardiola said. “We are hoping for UT to take it more seriously once we gather the support for this legislation.”