[Column] Babies

The prediction of a corona baby boom makes Monique van der Veen wonder how TU Delft handles the regulations for pregnant students who face study delay.

Monique van der Veen: “Als je je zorgen maakt over polarisatie, dan is uitgaan van ‘Ik ben het probleem’ een goede optie.” (Foto Sam Rentmeester)

While many parts of our lives have changed during the Covid-19 crisis, some things have remained the same. The prediction of a baby boom in nine months time of so-called ‘Corona babies’ makes for fertile ground for internet memes. And while we cannot visit animal zoos for the time being, baby animals are still being born there. You can try to spot the three newborn Rüppell’s vulture’s chicks in Blijdorp Zoo on their life webcam on vulture rock. And this video of the baby elephant born in Prague Zoo on 27 March is particularly soothing.

TU Delft students are also having babies. Pre-Covid-19, some of them took a weekly mummy or daddy day and/or frequented their faculty’s lactation room, while others tried to power through at an accelerated pace to obtain their degree before the baby was born. Now they may be juggling studying at home with full-time baby care. My interest was triggered by an article in Delta from last February about a student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences who was not permitted an extra resit when her resit was planned the day after her due date. This prompted the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights to advise educational institutes to put the facilities that pregnant students have a right to in writing.

Pregnant students have no right to facilities to avoid or limit study delay

To evaluate the situation at TU Delft, you need to look at the Student Charter which contains all the collective TU Delft student regulations. It has specific articles detailing the facilities for adapting education and examinations within reason in case of disabilities (article 4.11) and for elite athletes (article 5.5) to avoid or limit study delay. Disability, top sport and pregnancy are mentioned as reasons for financial compensation in case of study delay. But as it stands, pregnant students have no right to facilities to avoid or limit study delay.

Considerate study advisors and teachers often arrange reasonable educational and examination adaptations. Yet, it’s not guaranteed. In the context of arguing for a parenting friendly tenure track policy, several colleagues and I collected stories of badly handled pregnancy and parenting related situations. What stood out was how many stories came from the same departments or faculties across the Netherlands. Stories that I could not imagine happening in my own professional environment, but which happened nonetheless, even at TU Delft. Enshrining the aforementioned rights in the student charter hence does not seem an unnecessary luxury. And while we are at it, let’s directly include the conditions that are the logical consequence of pregnancy: child care, potentially including breastfeeding.

Regarding the aforementioned financial compensation for study delays from the TU Delft profiling scheme, women generally receive four months compensation for pregnancy. Yet here too, study advisors told me that they expect the Fund would be inflexible in cases of delay due to breastfeeding and parenting. It would be great if clear guidelines could be set for these conditions as well. Overall, the advice I can give parents and expecting parents studying at TU Delft: contact your study advisor as soon as possible. In the unfortunate event that they or the programme organisers are unresponsive to the situation, contact the central Student Counsellors.

Monique van der Veen is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Applied Sciences, department of Chemical Engineering. You can read about the work of her research team at www.tudelft.nl/cheme/vanderveengroup and follow her on Twitter at @MAvanderVeen.

Monique van der Veen / Columnist

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