5.3.18. Childbirth Accommodation Policy

The OIST Graduate University promotes diversity and supports balance in work and family life. It recognizes the need to accommodate the demands on students associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and the care of children. The University encourages women to undertake postgraduate education and supports women who decide to have children while at graduate school. It also recognizes the demands on partners who share in the care of a newborn child, on parents who adopt, and foster parents. The Childbirth Accommodation Policy comprises a set of measures designed to accommodate these needs, supporting family life during graduate studies.

The measures are designed to make it possible to maintain the mother’s full-time, registered student status before and after childbirth, and to facilitate her return to full participation in class work and research in a seamless manner. It is also designed to support partners, adoptive and foster parents sharing in the care of a newborn child.

This policy is intended to complement and not replace the communication and cooperation between student and academic mentor, thesis supervisor, and course coordinators in their good-faith efforts to accommodate the new family needs. It is the intention of this policy to reinforce the importance of that cooperation, and to provide support where needed to make that accommodation possible. A faculty member may not discontinue supervising a student’s thesis research on the basis of the student’s decision to give birth to, adopt or foster a child.

Summary of Provisions of the Childbirth Accommodation Policy
The Childbirth Accommodation Policy has four components:
 
(1)      an Academic Accommodation Period of up to two consecutive academic terms around the time of the birth, during which the student may postpone course assignments, examinations, and other academic requirements;
(2)      continuation of full-time registration as a graduate student with continued access to OIST facilities and housing during the Academic Accommodation Period;  
(3)      full financial support through the Academic Accommodation Period; and,  
(4)      leave from regular duties as a Research Assistant in accordance with the Maternity Leave provisions for Full-time employees, as follows:

 

Prenatal Leave. Research Assistants who expect to give birth within 6 weeks (14 weeks for multiple pregnancies) are granted prenatal maternity leave. When the actual delivery is after the expected delivery date, the additional days are included in the maternity leave.

Postpartum Leave. Research Assistants are granted 8-week paid postpartum maternity leave after giving birth. In this period, the University may not require them to work. However, up on their request, the Research Assistant may return to work for duties approved by a doctor.

Eligibility
The Childbirth Accommodation Policy applies to registered OIST graduate students, who are anticipating or experiencing a birth, adoption, or delivery by surrogacy. 

An Academic Accommodation Period can be granted to the father of the child or partner of the mother in cases where graduate student couples share the care of newborn children and the partner is the primary caregiver for the infant.

 An Academic Accommodation Period can also be extended to the new parents after adoption, fostering a child, or the birth of a biological child using a surrogate to bring to term.

Planning for the Academic Accommodation Period 
The student should initiate discussions with the academic mentor and the Dean of the Graduate School at least four months prior to the anticipated birth in order to make arrangements for an Academic Accommodation Period. These discussions should establish a timeline for academic issues (e.g., class attendance, rotations, examinations, thesis proposal, and other academic commitments) that will be affected by the birth of a child and by the postponement of academic requirements. 
 

It is essential that students undertaking thesis research consult with the thesis supervisor well in advance of the birth. It is the student's responsibility to make arrangements with faculty and with graduate school administrators for course completion and for continuation of educational, research and professional development activities before and after the Academic Accommodation Period. 

One of the purposes of the Childbirth Accommodation Policy is to make it possible for women to maintain their full-time student status. By remaining full-time students, the visa status of international students is not affected. Careful consultation should be undertaken to ensure that the implications for academic progress, visa status, and financial support have been thoroughly investigated. In completing the application for the Academic Accommodation Period, the student may optionally request up to two terms of part-time enrolment. If part-time enrolment status is approved, the student will retain all privileges of the Childbirth Accommodation Policy. Independent of making this request for part-time enrolment, if a serious medical problem were to arise for mother or newborn, the woman student would be eligible for extension of the period of Childbirth Accommodation Policy until the medical problem is resolved. 

Residency requirements
The expectation is that the student will be in residence in Okinawa, and, assuming good health of the pregnant woman or new mother and the infant, will remain engaged in class work and research, even if at a reduced level. 

Childbirth Accommodation Policy for students who are not in residence
A student may choose to take leave from the Academic Program and not be in residence for a period of time. In such a case a period of Non-study Leave may be granted in accordance with the Non-study Leave regulations ( PRP 5.3.17.3) up to a maximum of two consecutive academic terms around the time of the birth. The student may postpone course assignments, examinations, and other academic requirements during the period of absence and extension of the period of study by the period of absence. Registration as a graduate student with continued access to OIST facilities and housing will continue during the Non-study Leave period. Financial support will be in accordance with the provisions for Full-time employees for prenatal leave and postpartum leave as detailed in the Maternity Leave provisions.

Applying for an Academic Accommodation Period
Graduate students anticipating or experiencing the birth of a child may formally apply for an Academic Accommodation Period of up to two consecutive academic terms around the time of the birth. This Academic Accommodation Period is not a leave of absence from University responsibilities. 
 
The Childbirth Policy is administered by the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School through an application process. In that application, the student specifies the dates on which the Academic Accommodation Period begins and ends, with the requirement that the maximum duration is two consecutive terms. A letter from the student’s health-care provider stating the anticipated delivery date must accompany the application. If the childbirth occurs prior to filing the application, the accommodation period begins on the birth date.
 

The office of the Dean of the Graduate School will notify the student, the student’s academic mentor, and the relevant University administrative offices that the Academic Accommodation Period has been approved, along with the dates for the accommodation period. 

During and After the Academic Accommodation Period
Funding
Once a student submits an application, the office of the Dean of the Graduate School will ensure that students whose applications have been approved will see no change in their financial support as Research Assistants. 

Students who are supported by fellowships external to OIST must adhere to the rules of the granting agency with respect to absences from academic and research work. If the granting agency requires suspension of fellowship benefits the student will be eligible for substitute payment from OIST under the terms of a temporary Research Assistant agreement. 

Duration
The student, academic mentor, and thesis supervisor (if applicable) should recognize that it might not be feasible to return to a regular research assistant assignment immediately after the accommodation period. In that case, arrangements should be made to assign limited on-site duties. These issues should be negotiated sensitively with the student’s needs in mind. The student should work with the academic mentor, thesis supervisor, and Dean of the Graduate School to make arrangements for ongoing support beyond the accommodation period if unable to return to normal duties immediately. 

The maximum duration of the Academic Accommodation Period is two consecutive academic terms. If need extends beyond this limit due to ongoing issues associated with childbirth, different leave provisions may apply depending on the nature of the issues. In such case the affected student should make the situation known to the Dean of the Graduate School as early as possible so that measures can be taken.

Coursework and Research Activities
Approval of an Academic Accommodation Period will include an automatic extension of due dates for assignments and other class work and research-related requirements. Faculty are expected to work with the student to make arrangements for submitting work for completion of requirements when the student returns.
 
Access to the Child Development Center
Students are strongly advised to register, at the earliest possible time, for the waiting list of the Child Development Center for access to on-campus nursery care and early childhood education. 
 
 
Additional Comment
The Childbirth Accommodation Policy establishes minimum standards for accommodation for a graduate student giving birth or acting as the primary caregiver for a newborn or adoptive infant. It is expected that academic mentors, faculty, and the graduate school administration will work with sensitivity and imagination to provide more than this minimum, according to the particular circumstances of the student. For example, women whose research involves working with toxic chemicals or fieldwork may need some form of accommodation during the entire pregnancy and during lactation. Taking care of an infant is time-consuming and sleep-depriving, so advisors need to have realistic expectations about rates of progress on research. For their part, new parents need to keep the lines of communication with their advisors open, and demonstrate to their advisors that they are academically engaged and making progress on coursework and research, even if it is at a somewhat slower pace than prior to giving birth. In other words, the Childbirth Accommodation Policy is intended to support—not replace—the open communication and good will that should characterize the relationship between student, mentor and thesis supervisor at the Graduate University. 

 

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