Falling through the cracks
If equitable access to education and jobs is the goal, then universities must continue to improve services and accommodations
Student services have expanded tremendously in the past few years. Programs for international students and first-generation students, for equity-seeking groups and for those with acute mental-health issues are now the norm. But even as services become more targeted, most are still designed for students who are young, financially secure, with access to private or provincial aid. Student-parents don’t fit that profile and often fall through the cracks of campus support.
When I was a teaching assistant for a first-year English course at an Ontario university, one of my seminar students approached me shortly before winter exams. She was in tears as she told me that she probably couldn’t finish the term. The student’s mother could no longer babysit her toddler during class hours, and though she was on a waitlist for the campus daycare, it would be months before a spot opened – and she wasn’t sure she could afford it anyway. We brainstormed care options and how to approach her instructors for accommodations, but I never saw that student again.
As labour demands change and governments offer incentives for workers to upskill, more parents will take up the challenge of postsecondary education. These folks are making real sacrifices to pursue their studies, and universities should do all they can to help them achieve their academic goals. Affordable, flexible, on-campus child care is just the start of a student-parent support strategy. You can read more about campus daycares and the push for improved services – particularly in Quebec, where the daycare shortage is acute – in Jean-François Venne’s news story starting on page 40.
The issue of appropriate accommodation is also at the heart of our feature on the challenges facing disabled faculty members. When read alongside our story about faculty demographics, it’s clear that without detailed staffing data, universities will continue to underserve staff.
On a brighter note, Deborah Morrison recently joined the team as the new publisher of University Affairs. She brings a wealth of experience, having served in leadership roles at Canada’s History magazine and Experiences Canada. We want to thank Philip Landon for his support as outgoing publisher and wish him all the best as he continues in his role as chief operating officer at Universities Canada.