The College of Natural Sciences recognizes that some graduate students start or expand families during their time in our graduate programs. CNS offers four types of accommodations for graduate students with growing families. These accommodations are available to full-time students (enrolled for at least nine credit hours each long semester and three hours in summer). It is the responsibility of a graduate student anticipating a birth or adoption to inform their Graduate Adviser and/or GSC Chair, and their research supervisor of any anticipated accommodation needs as early as possible. Each department has identified a single faculty member (Departmental Contact) to assist graduate students anticipating childbirth or adoption, and to submit appropriate accommodation documentation (Parental Accommodation Form) to the CNS Dean's Office.                                                                               

1. Academic Accommodations: In cases of childbirth or adoption, graduate students in the College of Natural Sciences are allowed a one-semester extension in the completion of academic responsibilities required for their degree. Academic responsibilities include coursework, qualifying exams, committee meetings, presentations, or any other required academic milestones. The CNS Academic Accommodation Policy allows these responsibilities to be postponed either during or immediately following the semester in which the student’s child is born or adopted. After an accommodation period, students are expected to resume progress toward degree completion, and faculty are encouraged to remain flexible in their expectations so that students can meet the demands of graduate study while adjusting to new demands in their parental roles.

2. Teaching Assistant (TA) Accommodations: The College strongly encourages departments to provide non-TA/AI support for graduate students during the semester in which a child is born or adopted. If this cannot be done, new parents may request to be appointed to TA positions whose duties can be done in flexible environments and on flexible schedules. (Examples of such duties include: generating or proofreading exams, homework sets, or exam review materials; preparing detailed solution keys to problems; grading or grade-book maintenance; and assisting students with course content through email correspondence.) Students should check with their program’s Graduate Adviser and Graduate Coordinator for information about available TA positions that may be appropriate for their particular situations. Flexibility regarding the distribution of specific TA duties within a semester is strongly encouraged for supervisors of students anticipating the birth or adoption of a child. The student and Graduate Adviser (or other supervisor) should agree to review these TA duties on a periodic schedule to ensure that work is being completed in a timely and satisfactorily manner. A TA whose accommodations include performing at least some duties away from campus should review University guidelines regarding telecommuting and may be asked to sign a Telecommuting Agreement.

3. Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) Accommodations: Some graduate students may be able to carry out modified research duties following the birth or adoption of a child – thereby continuing progress towards the goals of their research, meeting the requirements of the external funding agency, and remaining in compliance for reporting effort on federal grants, if appropriate. (Modified duties may include: scholarly research and literature compilations, data processing and analysis, scientific writing, or preparation of other scientific communication materials.) See the document Modified Research Duties for Graduate Research Assistants in CNS for more information on eligibility and application requirements.

4. Parental Leave: In some cases, a complete break from all employment responsibilities may be most appropriate for new graduate student parents.[1] Benefits-eligible graduate student employees who continue to meet eligibility requirements for employment are entitled to Parental Leave of up to twelve weeks following the birth of a child or an adoption or foster-care placement of a child under age three. This leave is unpaid, and – unless the student qualifies for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – employee health insurance premium sharing is unavailable for any full month of leave (see the Human Resources Parental Leave webpage.

Students requesting Parental Leave may also request consideration by the College of Natural Sciences for Parental Assistance Funds to maintain stipend support and cover health insurance premiums for a portion of the semester in which a leave is granted. Please see your department’s Graduate Adviser, Graduate Coordinator, or Parental Accommodation faculty contact person for assistance. The CNS Director for Postgraduate Education will assist faculty contacts in determining the course of action that is most appropriate for individual graduate student parents. Students may also direct questions about Parental Leave and FMLA leave to the Human Resources Service Center at


As with all academic employee appointments, future financial support is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress as defined by the student's GSC, and satisfactory job performance as defined by the employing unit.

International students may have to satisfy additional obligations in cases (2)–(4) above; they should contact the International Office for further information.

In the event that a student’s request for accommodation is denied, the student may appeal to the CNS Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, who will investigate the appeal in coordination with CNS Human Resources staff and the Parental Accommodation faculty contact person in the student’s supervising department.

If medical conditions indicate that additional accommodations may be necessary, students should contact Services for Students with Disabilities and the Office for Inclusion and Equity to determine what additional accommodations are reasonable.

[1] This refers to a leave of absence from employment, and is distinct from an academic leave of absence requested from the Graduate School:

Departmental Contacts for Students Seeking Parental Accommodations:

Astronomy - Dr. Volker Bromm
Chemistry - Dr. Eric Anslyn
Computer Science - Dr. Lorenzo Alvisi
Human Development and Family Sciences - Dr. Edward Anderson
Integrative Biology - Dr. Dan Bolnick
Marine Science - Dr. Deana Erdner
Mathematics - Dr. Thomas Chen
Molecular Biosciences - Dr. Lauren Ehrlich
Neuroscience - Dr. Alex Huk
Nutritional Sciences - Dr. Jaimie Davis
Physics - Dr. John Keto
Statistics and Data Science - Dr. Peter Mueller



Grievance Policy for Graduate Students

Procedures for handling graduate student grievances are outlined on the Graduate School’s grievances webpage.

“Graduate students have the right to seek redress of any grievance related to academic or nonacademic matters. Every effort should be made to resolve grievances informally between the student and the faculty member involved or with the assistance of the graduate adviser, Graduate Studies Committee chair, or department chair.”

In situations where the grievance cannot be resolved informally at the program/department level, students have recourse through formal procedures that vary, depending on the type of grievance.

Four main categories of grievances are:

  1. Academic Grievances (examples include: adherence to degree requirements, changes in supervising committee membership, situations involving program termination)
  2. Non-academic grievances (primarily issues involving either discrimination or misconduct)
  3. Employment Grievances for Teaching Assistants and Assistant Instructors (issues related to the academic freedom of individual TAs, non-renewal of a TA or AI position, withholding of salary or promotion)
  4. Employment disputes involving Graduate Research Assistants

Procedures for addressing these 4 types of grievances are summarized here: Grad_Student_Grievance_Policies-CNS_summary.pdf.