The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVII, Issue 23
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
March 1, 2002

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LETTERS POLICY

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Letters to the Chronicle

Council opposes closing of childcare center

The Faculty Senate Council on the Status of Women calls on the University to reverse the decision to close the University Childcare Center (UCC). Eliminating childcare would cause irreparable harm to a large number of women, and to their careers and leadership opportunities on the Amherst campus.

Closing UCC would hurt all young families, but it would have a disparate impact on female faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students. Despite the great gains made in the past decades, working women still bear an unequal burden in our society. If the University dismantles its childcare programs, women staff and students will be forced to make difficult decisions about their work at the University, and their children's safety and education.

A university with no childcare facility will fall behind in the recruitment and retention of women scholars. In 2000, women comprised only about 30 percent of the faculty. The University should be doing everything possible to increase this number. Instead, the elimination of family services will make it extremely difficult to recruit and retain more women faculty, and threaten the productivity and grant-raising abilities of women at both the tenure-track and tenured levels.

UCC's early childhood programs have won national recognition for excellence. The center's programs rank in the top 7 percent of similar programs nationwide, and it has been considered as a model for other early care and education programs. The UCC teachers deserve to be rewarded for their achievements, not fired. UCC has provided internships and mentoring for 30-50 graduate and undergraduate students each semester, and research opportunities to the School of Nursing, and Psychology Department. UCC furthers the teaching, research, and service missions of the university.

The administration's decision to close UCC also signifies that it has bought into a very atomistic, privatized orientation that has devastated public resources nationwide and is now threatening the future of the University. The logic that imagines UCC as a mere "frill" or service for the few is easily extended into a vision of UMass as a "frill" for the few. Both UCC and UMass are vital collective public goods, and we must not allow them to be seen in any other light.

Each year, our Council on the Status of Women plans the very successful "Take Our Daughters To Work Day." The idea of bringing our daughters to the workplace is to show them that women can have successful careers in a wide variety of occupations. But this year, the administration seems to be sending the opposite message. Either women must stay home with their children, or every day will become "Take Our Daughters To Work Day."

We urge the administration to continue its dialogue with UCC families and staff with an eye to exploring alternative revenue streams that might support it. It would be a grave mistake for this campus to eliminate childcare. We should be moving forward towards progressive family-friendly policies, not backwards. Although the closing of UCC might save the University up to $300,000 per year, the substantive and symbolic costs of its loss would be far higher.

We urge the administration to consider alternative plans to reduce the budget. The current financial crisis must not be resolved at the expense of women and children.

NANCY CAMPBELL PATTESON,
MICHELINE ASSELIN,
co-chairs
Faculty Senate Council
on the Status of Women

 
    
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