Graduate student parents raise concerns about representation on task force


Source: Matilda Stubbs

Graduate student Matilda Stubbs holds her son, Cosmos. Stubbs is part of the NU Student Parent Alliance, a group concerned about its lack of representation on a University-appointed task force formed to examine the problems that graduate student parents face.

Olivia Exstrum, In Focus Editor

A coalition of graduate student parents say they are not represented by a task force formed this quarter to examine the experience of graduate student parents.

Announced this month, the task force does not include a representative from the group, the NU Student Parent Alliance.

The task force comprises faculty, staff and graduate students, three of whom are student parents. But Matilda Stubbs, an eighth-year anthropology student and active member of the Student Parent Alliance, said it’s not enough.

“Individuals being on a task force is not the same as them representing a collective group,” Stubbs said. “We’re the only student parent group on campus. It’s very problematic.”

Representatives from the alliance met with administrators in April to discuss improving the resources available to student parents. Some of the group’s concerns, detailed in a 75-page report the alliance presented at April’s meeting, include access to affordable childcare, parental leave policies and availability of lactation rooms. Members of the alliance, which formed last year, voiced their frustration about these issues to The Daily in March.

Provost Daniel Linzer, who assembled the task force with Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah, said he thought his conversation with the alliance in the spring was productive. Although Linzer highlighted the work the alliance had done, he said he and Chinniah wanted the task force to include “multiple perspectives.”

“This is a terrific process, where these initial students helped identify a problem and are moving ahead and addressing it,” he said. “But those who bring forward a position of advocacy cannot be the ones who then set the recommendations for what the University should do.”

Robin Hoecker, a sixth-year Communication graduate student and a student parent, said although she was aware of plans to form a task force, the alliance received little information about it after the meeting. The group sent administrators a list of who should be on the task force, which included graduate student parents, representatives from the alliance and a representative from the Women’s Center.

Linzer said the task force will use the alliance’s April report to guide its recommendations. The task force will submit the recommendations to Linzer and Chinniah at the end of May. Linzer acknowledged and thanked the alliance in the press release announcing the task force.

The task force had its first meeting Oct. 15, and Sarah McGill, co-chair of the task force and senior associate dean at The Graduate School, said it plans on meeting once a month.

“I feel really good about the composition and knowledge and commitment with which they are taking their charge,” she said. “I look forward to working with them.”

Hoecker said although she thinks those selected for the task force will do a good job, she is frustrated that the group responsible for the report will not be included in the task force’s discussions.

“They’re using the report, but we can’t be there to defend it or explain it or explain why we recommended the things that we did,” she said. “To use a sports analogy, it feels like we’re the team that got us to this point, we’re at the end of the game, the clock is winding down and now they put in all new players.”

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