Opinion: Bring Campus Childcare to Acadia

Photo Credits: Laura Fisher

Childcare may be the furthest thing from the minds of many students, which is understandable. However, campus childcare has impacts on many students, their quality of education, and gender parity issues at Acadia.

As faculty retire, new talent must be recruited and many sought-after professors are within a child-rearing age demographic. Whether they currently have children or will in the coming years, child care will be a service that is essential in supporting them in their career. Campuses like Acadia without childcare facilities will be rejected in favour of many of the other institutions that provide this service. The quality of our education is impacted by the ability to attract and retain quality faculty, and the pool is vastly narrowed and favours male academics without childcare services.

We might assume that we don’t need childcare on campus because there is childcare in the surrounding community. However, Kings County, and much of Nova Scotia is in what is considered a “childcare desert”. It is extremely difficult to find care, especially for children under 18 months as well as before and after school care. This feeds into the fact that a childcare centre at Acadia could fill any spots not used by opening them to community members. NSCC campuses prioritize staff, faculty, and students for childcare spots in their on-site childcare and open any remaining spots to the community. This model has been successfully used for many years, and many of the 13 NSCC campuses are much smaller than Acadia in terms of faculty and student populations.

Student parents make up between 11 and 16% of post-secondary students across Canada according to a 2011 national study. They are a steadily growing demographic at all levels of post-secondary studies and types of institutions. Student parents are more likely to be part of racialized or marginalized groups as well, groups that already experience a disparity in their educational access and attainment levels. Without childcare at Acadia, we stand to lose many potential students. Research shows student parents tend to be dedicated and have a higher than average GPA, making them the kind of students that make universities look good.

Gender parity in education and income levels are impacted by access to quality childcare. Women in academia often experience what is called the “motherhood penalty” which derives primarily from having children during their academic career. Men, however, do not encounter a “fatherhood penalty”, in fact, they enjoy a higher likelihood of promotion if they have children. Female faculty have described the extensive difficulties of lack of childcare options and the subsequent impact on their careers from delaying or preventing tenure to contributing to them quitting academia altogether. Caregiving work is still primarily the domain of women, and has an unequal impact on women versus men as a group. All parents need and deserve to be supported in their careers and educations, and childcare is a mitigating factor in the current gender divide that exists in access to academia for parents.

In a competitive education market, Acadia stands to lose many prospective students as well as talent to institutions that do support their role as parents. It’s been 30 years since there was childcare on campus, and Acadia is one of few post-secondary institutions that does not provide childcare. Many of the parents that work or study at this institution have asked for childcare, as evidenced in a study I conducted in 2017 on the needs of student parents at Acadia. Budgets are a matter of priorities, and funding does exist through the province and other methods. Let’s show Acadia that childcare is one of our priorities as students.

Sign the petition: https://goo.gl/forms/GKq5uiDo5xDsPu6q1

Fill in the survey by Deloitte: https://surveys.deloitte.ca/Checkbox/Interest-for-Acadia-Childcare-Centre.aspx

Laura Fisher is a fourth year (Honours) Community Development student and single mother of two.

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