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The Mass Media

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UMass Boston Needs to Improve Facilities For Student Parents

The+Learning+Center+is+inconveniently+located+off+campus
The Learning Center is inconveniently located off campus

 

 

On October 29, 2012, UMass Boston’s official Facebook page posted a message saying that classes would not be cancelled, even though floods and high winds had shut down all the local school systems, including the Boston Public School District. Day-cares were closed as well, but parents who are UMass Boston students were still expected to come in.

This is a problem—a big one. UMass students are busy folks with lives, and some of those lives involve children. Few other local universities are appropriate for parents because they require students to live on campus, or nearly all of the student body is teenagers. There simply aren’t a lot of options for a parent who wants to finish their degree. Yet, UMass Boston’s staff are sometimes incredibly insensitive to the needs of student parents.

Why doesn’t the university have a daycare? We have the Learning Center, but children can’t go there until they are over a year old. Does that mean that parents can’t go back to school for a year after their children are born? Why should they wait so long? Most of us are expected to go back to work within a couple months.

There’s also the problem of transportation. The Learning Center is only accessible via the number 2 shuttle bus, meaning that people who want to drop off a child on the way to class might need an extra half hour or even an hour to do so. How useful is it to have on-campus daycare if that daycare forces students to spend an extra twenty minutes waiting for the bus, then another twenty minutes waiting for another bus which will take them from the daycare to the school?

Why is having easily accessible daycare such a low priority, lower than two more academic buildings in a school where classrooms sit empty every day? Why don’t we use some of those millions of dollars the governor just gave us to help the students who need it most?

When I first decided to come back to UMass, I was heavily pregnant, and the individual staff I spoke to were for the most part very helpful. I had an early advising appointment so that I didn’t have to do anything when I was almost nine months along. I joined the Honors Program, and Joyce Morrissey, the Honors Program Director, encouraged me to bring in my daughter whenever I wanted, as soon as she was born.

However, Joyce Morrissey is not the entire university. When I spoke to a freshman orientation advisor about whether or not I had to haul myself, enormous stomach and all, out to Freshman Orientation, he started trying to talk me out of going back to school. “Are you sure that’s wise?” he asked, looking pointedly at my stomach.

I told him that of course it is wise to try and provide a future for my daughter by getting an education. I know it’s wise. I need a stable, secure job with benefits in order to raise a child. But if I had been anybody else, he might have deterred me from coming back. The fact that he even thought it was appropriate to ask a pregnant student whether she shouldn’t just stay home was a sign that he was poorly trained.

UMass needs to re-prioritize. The school needs to get back to its roots as an urban university, and remind their staff and faculty that older and returning students are central to the school’s mission as a public institute of higher education.