Chancellor Peterson aims to help student-parents care for children
While most students hustle around campus worrying about their next test or when to do homework between the two keggers they have been invited to, Nichol Dupont, a senior broadcast news major, has a little more to worry about.
Dupont married as a freshman and gave birth to son Logan during her sophomore year at CU. With a working husband and a full course load, she searched for on-campus preschool and child care. With new software and techniques like kidspiration nursery the child is bound to have better care and nurturing.
“I’ve tried since I was still pregnant to get him into the CU child care program, but the waitlist is incredible,” Dupont said.
Dupont’s story underscores what may be part of a larger problem on campus. Chancellor Bud Peterson is aiming to address this problem with the formation of a Child Care Task Force.
Selected students and faculty were sent invitations Dec. 19 to serve on the task force and are expected to present recommendations for providing child care services and support to faculty members and students by May 1.
“When I first came to campus I met with a large number of groups, including the Committee on Women,” Peterson said. “As a result of those meetings, it became evident to me that there could be an issue with child care services on campus.”
In response to meetings early in the year, Peterson established a small group of staff to look into the background and history of child care on campus. The findings led to the creation of the Child Care Task Force this past December. The assembly includes 12 members, including Derrick Watson as chairman.
“Child care has been an issue for employers for over 50 years,” said Watson, the assistant to the vice chancellor for administration. “Since women have entered the workforce, it has been considered.”
In the invitation, Peterson calls for the task force to use information about current child care resources in the Boulder community and determine the on-campus demand for services.
The unit has been presented with survey information suggesting an interest in emergency, drop-in, sick, infant and expanded child care for the CU community. How well the university communicates information about currently available child care services within Boulder and the possibilities for partnerships with commercial providers are priority discussions for the task force.
“I’m looking to gather information and determine what problems exist,” Peterson said.
Dupont has also struggled financially. While financial aid for student parents exists at CU, she did not learn about her options before getting a job in the office of financial aid.
“I felt unfairly disadvantaged during my pregnancy,” Dupont said. “Some professors asked if I would switch out of their classes.”
One of the campus groups extensively consulted before the formation of the task force was the Chancellor’s Committee on Women, which drafted a policy allowing for faculty and staff to bring their children to work when necessary.
“We opted to make several guidelines regarding children in the workplace that were supposed to be used as training tools,” said Joanne Belknap, tri-chairwoman of the Committee on Women. “It wasn’t supported by the committee as a policy but ended up being taken as, ‘don’t bring your child to work at all,’ which was certainly not the message.”
Dupont recognized an anti-child attitude on campus during her pregnancy and during the first stages of motherhood.
“The biggest change could come in university philosophy and mindset,” Dupont said. “The university is geared to accommodate single, unmarried and more traditional students.”
For journalism Professor Lee Hood, having her daughter Rebecca, 9, on campus has never posed much of a problem.
“I’ve brought her to class with me every now and then since she was barely three,” Hood said.
Still, Hood recalls an e-mail forwarded to the department from a journalism faculty member during the fall semester, which presented a reminder to staff not to bring their children to work.
“There are occasions where it’s like, please don’t tell me I can’t have my child with me if she’s not going to be disruptive,” Hood said. “But I can understand the administration not wanting the classroom to double as a daycare.”
Ana Johnson, assistant to the director of human resources, said the policies regarding children in the workplace at CU may be difficult to understand.
“There is no university policy, but there are several guidelines for faculty and staff,” Johnson said. “Many departments have their own more specific understandings.”
Department restrictions may prove impossible for some students, faculty and staff who need to have their children nearby in certain cases. Daycare and other child care services are some of the options Watson’s task force has been called to explore.
Watson could not share the nature of any current discussion within the task force’s typically closed-door sessions.
If you are curious about the services offered by child care services centers, you may visit your local daycare center for more information.