McGill’s Post-Graduate Student sSociety (PGSS) is currently surveying graduate and postgraduate students to assess their feelings about possible financial support for students on maternity or paternity leave.
“We really want to encourage people to take the survey. So far in 10 days we have 800 responses, but I think it would be great if we have 3,000 or 4,000 responses, to have a diverse idea of what our graduate students think,” said Dahlia ElShafie, PGSS VP (University and Academic Affairs).
The information gathered will be used to generate a proposal to the McGill administration in April or May. The project will have two phases. Phase One will involve scholarships for those on maternity or paternity leave, provided in equal part by PGSS and McGill.
ElShafie has heard positive things from the dean of graduate and post-doctoral studies and the McGill administration regarding the idea, but McGill is waiting for the written proposal before making any commitments.
Phase Two of the plan involves the PGSS University Affairs Committee, which will work with other universities and the Federation des etudiants universitaires de Québec (FEUQ) to lobby the Quebec government for uniform maternity and paternity leave at the provincial level.
Apart from relieving the financial burden of having children during one’s studies, ElShafie also hoped the support of the student community and McGill for this initiative could help change the culture around maternity and paternity leave.
“[According to the survey], 30 per cent of students would hesitate to tell their supervisors they want to go on maternity, or that they are pregnant, and 15 per cent would be afraid to tell their supervisors,” said ElShafie.
“This is childbearing age for grad students. This is a time that some of them may be thinking of [taking advantage of this program], so we should be more understanding and more accepting of this, and I hope that the initiative will help us achieve this goal,” she added.
— Sam Neylon