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Parental leave policies

Yarden Katz’s guest column published on April 9 offers me the chance to clarify an announcement sent on April 7 concerning a new Paid Parental Leave benefit approved by the Employee Benefits Oversight Committee, which adds to leave policies already available to eligible MIT employees.

In hindsight, we missed an opportunity to emphasize that the 5 days of Paid Parental Leave is in addition to other parental leaves for MIT employees. Birth mothers are eligible for paid sick leave — usually 8 weeks — upon the birth of a child. In addition, eligible mothers and fathers have a right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and 8 weeks of unpaid leave under state law (may run simultaneously for the birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child). We anticipate that MIT parents will use the new paid leave benefit in conjunction with these existing leaves.

We recognize that there is no perfect formula when it comes to benefits for our diverse community but are committed to providing benefits for our employees at all stages of life. I encourage readers to visit the Benefits website to see the range of benefits available to MIT employees.

Lorraine A. Goffe-Rush is the MIT Vice President for Human Resources.

Security policies on campus

It’s easy to call them small changes.

An extra desk in the lobby. An extra few seconds to retrieve identification. An extra logistical complication when friends spontaneously decide to visit. These changes are annoying and inconvenient, but, in the scope of general life, they seem minor.

But there is a subtler element at play. The extra desk in the lobby stands as a daily reminder of a nasty power play. The residents of my dorm had made clear, over and over again, that we had decided we preferred student desk workers. The message from MIT was equally clear: We own this campus. The institute where I once found paradise treated us like children, lied to us, and told us we could not be trusted to know what was best for us. Disillusionment hurt. We complained through every proper channel and were met with stone walls, false information, or worse: an endless loop of administrators pointing to each other. This wasn’t the MIT I believed in, so my beliefs had to change.

I remember one day when I came back to the dorm exhausted and cold. My ID was buried deep in my overfull backpack, and after unsuccessfully trying to maneuver it over the sensor I finally dropped the backpack, knelt on the floor, and pulled out some things until I dug out my wallet. An Allied-Barton worker stared coolly through the glass. Overwhelming bitterness swept over me. I had entered and exited that door every day for a year, but it seemed my residence still didn’t know who I was. I say residence because few experiences have made me feel less at home.

There were more major shifts, too. At one point last semester, an old friend wanted to come visit me at MIT. I told him that it would be best to postpone the visit a few months. Why? I didn’t feel at home where I lived, so I was moving off-campus. I told my friend that it would be easier to visit me when we didn’t have to go through security. At the time, it seemed like a simple constraint. Come to Boston in April, not February, because the weather will make you less miserable. Come to MIT when I live off-campus, because the security will make you less miserable. The difference is that there’s little MIT can do about the weather.

Now, I feel far safer than I ever did on campus. Environment matters. Seeing “protective measures” everywhere creates a strong impression that the protection is needed, regardless of whether it actually is. Now that those are gone, I can appreciate the trustworthiness of my peers and community. These may seem like small changes, but the shift in how students perceive their living space — and their school — is dramatic.

Jade Philipoom is a member of the Class of 2017.