Single parents and families with children are critically under-represented at the University of Victoria. Though many marginalized groups are represented among the university population, this demographic is left without a voice and therefore often suffers the consequences of exclusion and oversight. We, as student parents, call for the university and our community to provide more support for those of us who care for our children on top of our academic and professional workload.
Last year, UVic students generously voted to increase fees in order to sponsor four rather than three World University Service of Canada (WUSC) refugee students each year. What the campus might have done with better information would have been to direct some of those funds to providing structural supports for the students already here and struggling.
Marwo Abdi and her partner Mohammed Adam write, “We have a two-year-old daughter and are still on the waitlist for campus daycare. As immigrant students, we experience many challenges in terms of accessing childcare services, finding suitable employment and a lack of child-friendly and family-centred spaces at the University. We feel this is due in part to the fact that most of the UVSS members/university spaces are youth-centred/led, and people like me and my partner, who are immigrant, black, Muslim, mature students with a family, are not represented and have no voice.”
Other examples of where we feel more consultation with mature students is needed include the funding and promotion of UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) referendums, such as the recent referendum pertaining to a facelift for the Student Union Building (SUB) and Felicita’s. We would have preferred a move toward creating a family-friendly communal space in Vertigo with a communal kitchen. Then, perhaps, we could start a student-run daycare co-operative. As well, neither UVic nor the UVSS offer childcare at most campus events, so student parents cannot participate. We, as community members, feel the pain of this exclusion.
Single, working-class mothers are often driven out of the home to sell their labour while simultaneously being relied upon to shop, provide meals, home/yard maintenance, physical and emotional care. The academy becomes the third shift. We find it disheartening that there is little effort to make accommodations for mothers/parents on campus as we try to pull ourselves and our children up out of a poverty cycle.
At present, most job postings at UVic, including UVSS-funded organizations that pay union wages, appeal to marginalized groups to apply first — but they don’t list “single parents” in that category. Why does the campus fail to recognize single parents, in particular single mothers, as marginalized?
Though single parenthood can be a challenge for men and women alike, ending all forms of violence against women is crucial to a healthy society. Achieving this goal demands that we remove barriers keeping mothers stuck in precarious employment. Providing mothers opportunities to fully participate in post-secondary education is imperative. Global studies show that by investing in women, communities prosper; so why does UVic think it can afford a year-long and costly 50th birthday bash and not a long-term initiative to revamp its child-care systems, alter tenure-track options for mothers and create family-friendly policies? We feel expenditures such as renovations and parties come at the expense of mothers still waiting for women’s equality and the provision of structural supports that draw them here.
Shauna Breitkreutz says, “As a single mother of a three-year-old at the time I began my studies, it was really important to me that I be available to my son and close to him in proximity . . . Accessible, available and flexible daycare on campus would certainly have impacted my education experience. Perhaps I would have looked beyond distance programs . . . These programs were basically my only options.”
With distance learning, parents miss out on campus opportunities and resources, as well as access to our community.
Please ask the UVic administration and the UVSS to make childcare a priority. Tell them you support a plan that makes our campus family friendly and ensures mothers may pursue their educational goals.
Director of Student Affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adviser to the Provost on Equity and Diversity: email@example.com
Vice-President Academic and Provost: firstname.lastname@example.org