Parental-leave issues arise for UI faculty, staff

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UI professor and grad students showcase statistics on parental leave.

By Sarah Stortz 

sarah-stortz@uiowa.edu

The results of a University of Iowa Parental Leave Survey Report released March 31 revealed several key findings that could help the community understand first-time parents at the UI.

In the Becker Communication Studies Building, Assistant Professor Sarah Bruch and graduate students Yujia Lyu and Hansini Munasinghe gave a presentation on the topic of parental leave in the university. The presentation was hosted by the Council on the Status of Women and the UI Public Policy Center.

Among the key findings of the report were that most UI staff and faculty who were parents used a combination of accrued sick leave, vacation time, and unpaid leave, making up about on average nine weeks of leave throughout the year.

Additionally, 65 percent of staff members reported being satisfied with the leave received. On the flip side, only 46 percent of faculty members felt the same way.

According to the presentation, the goal of their research was to gain information about the experience and perceptions of parental leave among faculty and staff members at the UI. The survey was electronically sent out to all staff and faculty last spring.

Communication Studies Lecturer Mary High, a co-chairwoman of the Council on the Status of Women, said the research stemmed from the regular number of people who would frequently come in with questions regarding parental leave at the UI.

“The council started to wonder ‘Hey, do a lot of people have questions about this issue?’ ” she said. “ ‘How do people feel about faculty and staff in parental leave?’ So we just became curious to hear about isolated questions or concerns.”

A total of 2,512 people responded to the survey, 14 percent of UI staff and faculty. Responders were free to anonymously comment with their parental-leave experiences.

After the researchers concluded the presentation, the event quickly moved to a panel consisting of Diana Kremzar, manager of Family Services, Director of Faculty and Staff Disability Services Nathan Stucky, and President of UI Student Government Rachel Zuckerman.

During the panel, Stucky said the faculty in Disability Services hopes to train UI Human Resources to be more comfortable with parental leave.

“The university is doing well, but we need to continue to educate and train,” he said. “We need to let people know where we can on information on [parental leave.] It was difficult to hear about these experiences.”

Kremzar said Family Services are beginning a program to help parents connect with individuals when it comes to parental leave.

“[The program is] relatively new,” she said. “We’re working on communication and letting them know about this resource.”

Munasinghe said she hopes after doing this research, everyone on campus will see the scope of the issues associated with parental leave.

“With this survey, we were able to gage the overall experience of the university. We included some group differences and organization unit differences,” she said. “I think it gives kind of a good snapshot of what experiences are like. Also includes changes of what people want to see in the future.”

Although the survey focused on UI faculty and staff, High said, concerns over parental leave on campus could go past those two groups.

“Although this research focused on faculty and staff, many units across the university and the Council on the Status of Women certainly is interested in students who might have parental leave concerns as well,” she said.

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