As a Long Beach City College student, and a parent, I was pleased to see the Viking News sharing resources available to parenting students on campus through Sabriyya Ghanizada’s article last week, but felt the assertion that our administration is “supporting single parents” to be somewhat disingenuous when our campus resources fail to meet the bare minimum legal standards set within CA. As Long Beach City College does not collect data on parenting students I cannot state definitively what percentage of our students are parents but my own 40 class survey last spring indicated that about 18% of our students have dependents. If this number remains similar across a larger institutional study (which I strongly urge the administration to conduct) that will indicate that our parenting population, even at almost 1/5 of our 34986 students, makes up a smaller proportion of our overall student population than the national average which a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2014 places at 26% of all college students nationwide. The “Mother’s Room” advertised within the article is available only during the Student Health Center’s operating hours, while state law (AB2785) clearly demands that “the lactation accommodation shall be available to a student whenever a student is required to be present on campus” which indicates that our lactation facilities must be available between the hours of 6:40am and 9:50pm on weekdays, and from 8:00am to 2:00pm on Saturdays as our campuses offer classes during these periods. This facility also fails to be featured on campus maps, on the college website, or on signage in the relevant locations.
At the federal level, Title IX “prohibits discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions.” And further requires that educational institutions “must excuse a student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth for as long as the student’s doctor deems the absences medically necessary. When a student returns to school, she must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before her medical leave began.” And yet LBCC do not have an established parental leave policy, nor do many of our professors seem aware of these regulations or of their impact on their classes, particularly where attendance and participation grades, or issuance of incompletes are concerned. As long as these policies are left at the discretion of faculty, LBCC risks running afoul of federal regulations. We need clear, unambiguous policy measures to close these gaps.
Beyond lactation facilities and lecture halls, our parenting-students face hurdles in the counseling offices; have you ever noticed the line on the EOPS counseling sheet that says “do not bring children with you to the counseling appointment, or you will have to reschedule” – many of our low-income students are required to attend these appointments three times every semester. This is on top of studying full-time, parenting, and – in most cases – working to support a family. This clause, and the shaming “no children allowed” signs in the counseling center, burden these students with the additional responsibility of finding and paying for childcare so that they may attend their very necessary academic counseling appointments. Long Beach City College policy (5012.3 F) officially states that no children are allowed on campus unsupervised, surely the supervision of their parent and caregiver should suffice?
The LBCC Child Development Centers are wonderful facilities, providing stellar care to the children of students and community members. Their services, however, are restricted to children between the ages of 2 and 5, which is unlikely to coincide with the population requiring our lactation facilities. The resources Ms. Ghanizada described should certainly be appreciated as they demonstrate efforts to improve the lives of student-parents, and should be applauded as they indicate the presence of concerned administrators in many departments on campus but a coordinated effort would go a long way towards achieving equity for parenting-students. A thorough assessment, by the administration, of this population on our campus would help to close these gaps, to identify areas of weakness and to better serve our students, who face obstacles at every turn and still persist. The resources that LBCC is offering indicate a piece-meal approach to supporting these students and clearly demonstrate the need for a broader universal assessment of who our parenting students are, and what their needs are. A student making use of the lactation facilities is probably a different student to the one who enrolls their 2-5 year old in campus child care, and the low income EOPS student attending a counseling appointment is unlikely to be able to pay for child care to enable them to attend their appointment. Our administration could close these gaps and provide active, engaged support for parenting students if they started by gathering data, listening to these students and assessing where similar local community colleges are succeeding in meeting the needs of their parenting student populations.
Other campuses in the Southern California region are making changes big and small to aid these students and help them to reach their transfer and career goals and thus provide better lives for their families and I don’t believe our college is doing enough. LA Valley College offer a Family Resource Center that boasts a “whole-family” approach to education. They offer “an academic counselor, after school (school-age) childcare, kid-friendly study lounge, tutoring, textbook support, computer and printing access, school supplies, children’s clothing exchange, organic produce, diapers/wipes/formula, and so much more” (lavcfamilyresourcecenter.org). Cerritos College recently extended their childcare hours to offer evening care for children between the ages of 3 and 5, they also offer resource workshops for parenting students where they explain their rights under Title IX and similar statutes, map out available resources on campus and in the community and share information about the parenting classes that are available to their students. Rio Hondo recently piloted a parenting-student graduation in conjunction with their CalWorks program and Mothers of Color in Academia, a campus advocacy group.
The efforts of community colleges to support parenting populations result in extraordinary rewards not just for our students and their families but for our colleges and broader communities. Research has shown us that parenting-student resources can dramatically affect the retention, completion and general success rates of students with dependents. In their 2009 book, Passing the Torch: Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across the Generations? Paul Attewell and David E. Lavin explored, through multi-generational research, the consequences of educational attainment for families. They found that “increasing parents’ educational attainment yields positive short and long-term gains for children, in the form of higher earnings, greater access to resources, more involvement in their child’s education and greater likelihood of their child pursuing a higher educational degree.” Children growing up in households where education is valued are not only far more likely to seek higher education themselves, they are far more prepared for the inherent challenges of higher-ed when they reach college age.
It is our responsibility as LBCC students to both applaud the administration for their efforts, as Ms. Ghanizada did, and to hold them accountable when they aren’t doing enough to support their students, and to meet the requirements set by state and federal authorities. It is incumbent upon us to make our voices heard, to demonstrate our presence on campus and to communicate our needs to the administration. I understand how difficult it is to find time to keep fighting while juggling the demands of school, work, and parenting, but if we work together – sharing the responsibility, we can amplify one-another’s voices and leave this campus a better place for future students too.
Lara Meintjes, Student