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Policy meets resistance: Campus maternity, paternity policy leaves some faculty, staff wanting more

February 27, 2015

In the past four months, Monmouth College has implemented a new policy for parental leave.

The policy states that parental leave is guaranteed for up to six weeks to full-time faculty and staff. During this six-week period (or however much time employees decide to take), employee sick days are put toward their leave. In the event that their sick days are exhausted, vacation and personal days are then charged. After that, they continue on unpaid leave.

Some faculty and staff members are not content with the maternity and paternity leave policy now on the books.

“From my understanding, faculty may not be absent from their classes for longer than three weeks,” said Kate Zittlow Rogness, a communication studies professor. “After three weeks it must be considered short term disability, which results in a deduction of their pay. My spouse was given four weeks paid time off after the birth of our son. I had the option of taking a leave with a pay deduction.”

Richard Marshall, vice president for finance and business, said, “The college has expanded a number of our employee benefits over the course of the last nine months. We started offering dental insurance and vision insurance to our employees which they had not had before. Additionally, we did expand our parental leave policy. Prior to recent action about four months ago parental leave was only available basically to one member of the family. Now, parental leave is open to both sexes.”

Ian Moschenross, a professor in the music department, said that the policy was almost the same as before. “I’m unsatisfied. I think it could be changed tomorrow with little ramification.”

Zittlow Rogness had her son before the policy was placed in the books, but Moschenross noted that the only change in the policy was the addition of paternity leave.

“That is an improvement, which I’m happy about. But we deserve better. If we can’t afford it, then say so. Otherwise, get on this common sense and humane policy.”

Michelle Carlson, assistant director of admission, also has had firsthand experience with maternity leave in the past and will again in the near future.

“I have worked at Monmouth College during the births of all my children,” Carlson said. “With our anticipated baby, this time around I will have to use up every sick day, every personal day and every vacation day … then still have to go unpaid. My biggest concern is when I come back, I will have zero days to get me until our vacation and personal time restart in July.”

The current sick leave policy of the college gives each employee 30 days of sick leave when they first begin work. After that, employees accumulate one sick leave day per month.

“The college has a fairly generous paid sick leave policy,” Marshall said.

Dean of Faculty David Timmerman confirmed this, adding that the policy is comparatively generous when looking at schools similar in endowment and size.

One option Moschenross believes would be beneficial is the addition of a sick leave pool. A sick leave pool would allow faculty members to pool together their unused sick days in support of other faculty members who may have run out. “This enables a parent to still have paid days off for legitimate use, like going to the dentist and so forth, normal things to use those days for,” Moschenross said.

President Clarence Wyatt, in response to this idea, said, “In all of this, we’re always open to new ideas and new thoughts. ‘How can we make things better?’ Frankly, that’s the spirit we want to have across the whole campus.”

Marshall said, “That’s something we have not talked about, establishing some sort of sick leave pool. I’ve not been a party to any discussions about that here at Monmouth College.”

Timmerman added that he is supportive of faculty needs, and that their feedback is helpful to shaping policy. “We received very little feedback (about our new policy). We heard back from a few employees, but that’s not a representative sample.”

Marshall cautions about looking at all of the sides before implementing a paid maternity and paternity leave policy, or implementing a sick leave pool.

“The institution has a lot of expense needs, there are a lot of things we have to do and our budget has many components,” Marshall said. “We need to spend money on a lot of different things; how much of that are you going spend on compensation and benefits? That’s always a question that every institution wrestles with.”

Moschenross said, “I think that we talk a lot on the faculty and staff and administration about the Monmouth family, and I think we can do better at making that a reality and treating our employees with a little bit more care.”

“This is an improvement,” Timmerman said. “I assume this policy will continue to change and evolve. We’re working to make the institution stronger, and we hope to continue doing that.”

Aimee Miller
Courier Copy Editor

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