Course 6 is the second department to institute this policy — the Physics Department was the first to fund the third month of childbirth accommodation, beginning in 2008.
The change was led by Marzyeh Ghassemi G, co-chair of the Graduate Student Council’s (GSC) Housing & Community Affairs (HCA) committee. Ghassemi, who is currently pregnant, had approached her advisor, who was “incredibly supportive” and suggested speaking to Chandrakasan. A short meeting later, Chandrakasan agreed to fund a third month of maternity leave for graduate women in the department.
“It was disarmingly simple,” said Ghassemi. “I’m impressed with the speed with which they said yes and how happy they were to do this.”
“It made sense. We need to provide more flexibility,” said Chandrakasan. “The credit is all to the Physics Department who took the initiative, and we want to be supportive of our graduate women.
The department plans to implement the policy in the same manner as the Physics Department. Students who are approved by the ODGE for childbirth accommodation can receive a third month simply by informing the department of their desire to take the leave. Funding for the new policy will come from the department’s discretionary funds. The third month of paid leave will cover one month of the RA stipend (~$2500) and tuition (~$4800), summing to approximately $7300 per person, according to Chandrasakan. The department anticipates that three or four graduate women will apply for childbirth accommodation per year. Since implementation of their policy in 2008, three graduate women in physics have taken advantage of the Physics Department’s policy with the third month. According to a 2009 Institute survey of graduate women, 2.7 percent of women respondents (including master’s and doctorate programs) “plan to have children while at MIT,” and 7.4 percent were “considering having children while at MIT.”
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If you want to get involved with the GSC’s efforts to improve MIT’s support for student families, please contact the Family Subcommittee at firstname.lastname@example.org.