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Childbirth Accommodation Policy (WHOI Policy)


This policy applies to any full-time, registered graduate student woman.  It is limited to women who anticipate giving birth and does not apply to adoption or to men in support of their wives or partners during childbirth.

The Academic Programs Office administers the policy through the petition process. This petition does not require departmental approval but is reviewed by the student's advisor and Education Coordinator, and is approved by the Associate Dean. Please see "Approval" below for details.


A student anticipating childbirth is eligible for a period of up to eight weeks of Childbirth Accommodation. Normally, the accommodation period begins on the date specified in a petition filed with and approved by the Academic Programs Office; or in cases wherein childbirth occurs prior to filing the petition, on the actual date of childbirth.

For the approved period of accommodation, students supported by a WHOI GRA or Fellowship appointment will receive a salary that is paid from Academic Programs funds. For GRA appointments, the Academic Programs funds payment will replace the tuition and salary normally distributed from the GRA account.

Students supported by fellowship resources external to WHOI are expected to adhere to rules and regulations of the granting agency with respect to leaves from academic and research work. The Associate Dean can assist in discussions with outside providers (for example, the National Science Foundation, EPA, among others). If the providing agency requires suspension of fellowship benefits during the Childbirth Accommodation period, and appropriate documentation is submitted to the Academic Programs Office, the student will be eligible for substitute payment from Academic Programs funds.

Normally, approval of Childbirth Accommodation will stop the academic and research clocks with regard to assignments due, reports anticipated, or other class and research related requirements. Otherwise, faculty are expected and encouraged to make arrangements with the student to submit work for completion of requirements when the student returns. Where appropriate, "O" and "OX" grades can be assigned. In most cases grades of "Incomplete" would not be appropriate.

Advisors, instructors and department Education Coordinators should take appropriate steps to support students with regard to assignments and program milestones. Advisors and students  should be sensitive to the potential impact of the period on the visa status of international students, and should consult with the MIT International Students Office during the planning process.

Anticipating the acommodation period

To begin planning for the accommodation period, the student is strongly encouraged to initiate conversations with advisors and departmental administrators approximately five months prior to anticipated childbirth. This planning period will permit the department and the student to consider together:

  • advisability of and alternatives for a TA assignment in the term anticipated for delivery
  • plans for time-sensitive research presentations or reports
  • other issues of mutual importance (e.g., field work, doctoral qualifying examinations, publication deadlines, or other milestones in the student's program)

Normally, the length of the accommodation period will be decided in consultation with the Associate Dean.


Approval of Childbirth Accommodation is granted by the Associate Dean, after appropriate consultation with the student's advisor and Education Coordinator. Normally, the accommodation is granted to applicable women graduate students who have submitted a petition (link of right) and appropriate documentation of anticipated childbirth (consisting of a brief statement by the student's medical service provider with a best estimate of the delivery date) and who have initiated planning within the department prior to delivery.

Continuation of services

Approval of Childbirth Accommodation does not affect eligibility for outside hospitalization benefits, provided that appropriate tuition and health insurance fees have been paid for the term in which delivery is anticipated.

For international students, the policy is intended to maintain full-time student status and should not otherwise affect current visa status. The accommodation is intended to enable childbirth and subsequent return to classes and research in as seamless a manner as possible. However, international students should discuss the intended accommodation period with the MIT International Students Office at the beginning of the planning period specified above, to identify and address proactively any individual or unique visa issues and/or to consider the latest applicable regulations.

Continued TA service

Students who will be temporarily leaving TA/TF assignments are permitted to consider some limited ongoing duties (e.g., grading, preparing course materials, or other non-intensive duties). Such services cannot be required by TA/TF supervisors as a condition of the accommodation; and, if agreed upon at all, should be negotiated sensitively with the student's needs in mind. The student should recognize that it may not be feasible to return to a TA/TF assignment after the Childbirth Accommodation period, and should work with her department proactively to make alternative arrangements for ongoing support. Departments should consult with the Associate Dean about the availability of assistance for the remainder of the relevant term.


Upon notification of the impending or actual childbirth by the student and the student's physician, the Academic Programs Office will notify relevant advisors, department Education Coordinators and central administrative offices that Childbirth Accommodation has been approved and the dates for which the period has been granted. It is the student's responsibility to work with faculty and with departmental administrators towards arrangements for course completion and for continuation of research activities before and following the period. International students are advised to ensure their continued compliance with current immigration regulations as they plan for the period.

Final documents related to the accommodation and the individual arrangements shall be filed with the WHOI Registrar, Academic Programs Office.