Senate votes to support accommodations for pregnant, parenting students

Madeline Duncan, Senior News Reporter

The Senate of College Councils voted Oct. 27 to give increased academic accommodations to pregnant or parenting students if they are willing to discuss their situation with their professors.

According to Senate, 104 undergraduate students at UT claimed a dependent on their FAFSA last spring. 

Senate voted unanimously on a resolution requiring professors to explicitly mention in their syllabus that students who are pregnant or parenting are protected under the University’s Title IX policy. Senate wrote the resolution in partnership with the Student Parent Organization at UT. 

While Title IX does protect pregnant and parenting students from discrimination, UT does not currently require professors to notify students that the accommodations are available under Title IX in their syllabus. The University will implement the resolution in the spring, Senate vice president Sameeha Rizvi said at the meeting. 

Emily Rangel, president of the Student Parent Organization, said the resolution is set up so students can contact their professors directly for accommodations.

“If the student and professor can’t agree on what would be a ‘reasonable’ accommodation, then it would go to the Title IX office,” Rangel said. “Students can (also) utilize University Health as a resource, and the Student Parent (Organization).”

Rangel, a speech, language and hearing sciences junior and parent, said the syllabus requirement will make it easier for students to understand their options, discuss their situation with professors and access necessary accommodations. 

“Sometimes things do come up where, for example, (the baby) gets sick and I have to communicate with my professors that I have to go home, I can’t come to class this day,” Rangel said. 

Rangel said student-parents often struggle to achieve all their tasks in a day.

“Austin is an hour away from where I live,” Rangel said. “So I do have to commute daily to manage both my academic life and my family life, and I also have three jobs on campus.” 

Jordan Greene Goodrich, the former president of the Student Parent Organization, said syllabus accommodations have helped student parents at other universities.

“Schools like UC Davis, UC Berkeley, University of Florida, Ohio State — they all have language that support student parents in their syllabus,” Goodrich said. “(The resolution) came from looking at different ways that other universities support this population and trying to find something accessible and realistic to accomplish in order to build the momentum to build support for student-parents.”

Goodrich, a student-parent who graduated in spring 2022, said her professors were supportive throughout her college career, but she still struggled to get her academic work done. While on the phone for this story’s interview, Goodrich paused several times to take care of her sick child. 

“This is a perfect example of during the work week, during normal operating hours, it’s really hard to find a quiet minute to talk to somebody, whether it’s a reporter, a professor, an adviser,” Goodrich said. “Our lives just don’t work 9-to-5.”

Goodrich said she hopes the syllabus requirement begins a conversation about how to best support nontraditional students. 

“There’s lots of ways that universities can support student-parents,” Goodrich said. “We really hope that after this legislation passes, it sparks a deeper conversation about what nontraditional students need to be successful and how UT can be more welcoming and supportive of populations with different needs.”