By Krystal Vera-Tudela—
During my sister’s spring semester at PCCC in 2010, my mother was unable to find a caretaker. At that time, I was ten and my sister was forced to take me to school in order for my mother to go to work. Although this was an awkward experience for my sister, her professors and classmates welcomed me with open arms.
As my sister sat me down beside her, she handed me her iPod and plugged the earphones in. I listened to soft music as she took out her notebook and began to take notes. As I sat in the corner, professors were able to still actively teach the lesson and students were able to actively learn. In no way was I a distraction or a safety issue.
Although I was young, this was my first time witnessing a college student’s lifestyle, and I was intrigued by every second of it. Most importantly, my mother was grateful that my sister was able to take care of me while she was in school because any other kind of childcare was too expensive for my family to afford.
So, why the big change?
Passaic County Community College imposed a strict policy this fall semester in which students and staff are not allowed to bring children into classrooms. This policy seriously restricts students and staff (who are mostly women) that need to watch their children when no one else can. The issue with this new policy is that it affects female students and staff the most. Imposing this new policy could impact the school’s graduation rate, and puts students and staff in tight financial positions (childcare is not cheap nor is short notice easy).
On campus, female students and staff are mostly the ones taking care of children while trying to maintain a job and/or education. Males are usually free from this kind of responsibility and can easily attend work or school without worrying about child care. PCCC’s policy deeply affects the childbearing population of this school, as they are the ones stuck with balancing school and the responsibility of taking care of children.
Because of the social expectation of women having to take care of children, this policy definitely has an extreme, negative gender-bias. It takes away from female students’ education, because they cannot attend class if they are responsible for children. This can ruin PCCC’s reputation and can be assumed that they do not take their female students’ life struggles into consideration.
While male students easily go to class every day and do not have to worry about taking care of small children, female students have to skip class now and receive low attendance grades because they are forced to take care of children at home.
At PCCC, there are more women than men attending the college. With a low graduation rate of 12%, this new policy does not help PCCC’s statistics. If this policy forbids children inside of the school, women are mostly likely going to have to drop classes in order to take care for children.
This outcome is going to lead to a higher dropout rate, and an even smaller graduation rate. In no way does this policy benefit PCCC and its administration.
Located in Paterson, PCCC is home to many students that do not have enough financial resources to attend regular four year colleges, so, what makes it easier to afford expensive childcare like nannies or day care?
The policy is ignorant considering the fact that PCCC knows that its students cannot afford extra financial burdens. It is like the school is saying, “We don’t know how you are going to care for your child, but it cannot be here.” This is an extremely negative environment for students and staff.
Although it is understandable that PCCC does not want to be responsible for children not enrolled in the school in case of an emergency, the higher risk is the steep drop in graduation rate, incline in dropout rates, and negative reputations gained through this toxic policy.
What can the school do to avoid these risks and become a more welcoming institution for students of all kinds (including mothers)? They can administer a waiver to students bringing children in to ensure that the child is the full responsibility of the student, not the school.
The waiver can also let professors decide whether they allow the children or not, as they are the ones that are teaching the lectures. This will keep the school safe, the students safe, and the children safe with their guardians.
Again, PCCC should abandon the toxic policy of forbidding children into classrooms. It negatively affects female students of the school, the school’s statistics, and financial helplessness.