The academic world
is known for pledging countless leniencies for students who are new mothers, but reality isn't always reflective of this.
Avital Weinberg-Shoshan, who is studying for a Bachelor's degree in social work at Ariel University, was forced to retake a course after leaving the class to breastfeed her baby boy. "The lecturer told me that she didn't care that I left class to breastfeed my child who was crying, and that there are milk alternatives," she said.
After giving birth, Weinberg-Shoshan and her husband decided, so as to not interfere with her studies, that her husband would lessen his workload and spend time at the university to supervise the toddler. During a Methods of Individual and Family Intervention course, Weinberg-Shoshan heard her baby crying, while being watched by her husband, and left the class for 20 minutes to breastfeed the child.
Weinberg-Shoshan must now retake the course from the beginning, including practical work that she's already completed. The course must be finished in order to move on, and because she hasn't officially passed it she can't continue with the rest of her studies.
Weinberg-Shoshan must now retake the course from the beginning (Photo: Efi Shrir)
"I didn't want to leave in the middle of a lecture, but I couldn't keep sitting when my son is hungry," she said. "When I came back after breastfeeding the lecturer told me that the next time I leave in the middle of the class she will count it as an absence. I answered back that I just left to breastfeed my son, and from what I know, that's one of my rights as a student who just gave birth. The lecturer answered me back aggressively, saying that she doesn't care, it's forbidden, and that I should find other solutions and that there are milk alternatives."
After the fact, she was listed as absent. And with that absence, she went over the limit of permitted absences, including those that she had taken while being at risk during her pregnancy. These absences are forcing her to have to retake the course and perform the practical work a second time.
"Despite the difficulty of becoming a mother
who needs to breastfeed her son, and living an hour away from the university, I made an effort to meet the requirements," Weinberg-Shoshan said. "It's not reasonable that just because I left to feed my baby, I had a course disqualified and have to suspend my studies."
Hannah Kehat, CEO of Kolech, an organization that deals with laws and regulations for students who are mothers, said there is a constant abandonment of new mothers in the academic world. And lecturers make up rules, as they see fit.
"I'm distressed to see that Ariel University is revealing close-mindedness about a mother who did all she could to meet her academic requirements in conjunction with her maternal requirements," she said.
University responded to the case. "Apart from the understanding and empathy, the student was not available for academic studies in the said period. After returning from maternity leave, she demonstrated a pattern of behavior filled with significant tardiness and leaving in the middle of class without returning. This is despite there being a nursery that the university operates for student-parents. The university is incapable of permitting the student to become a social worker if she is found to be significantly absent from the main courses in her program."
The university also commented on the lecturer's comments of milk alternatives. "The lecturer did not recommend the student use milk alternatives. She simply explained that if she wanted to study in the course she must be present all throughout the class, and that if she has to feed her child she can weigh other options – milk pumping machines and milk alternatives. The university is considerate, and will continue to be considerate, of students who giver birth."
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