Graduate student group releases childcare study

The Working Group on Child Care at Yale, a group composed mostly of graduate students, will release today the report of their three-month long child-care survey that ended in mid-March.

The survey, which netted responses from 460 Yale graduate and professional students, found a strong correlation between income levels and the decision to have children, a problem when the University lacks affordable childcare, organizers said. The group’s survey was a response to what they called a flawed child-care survey sponsored by the Provost’s Office in October 2004.

Zach Victor MUS ’06, the report’s author, said the Provost’s Office survey, which was conducted by the consulting group Bright Horizons — a company chaired by then-sitting Yale Corporation fellow Linda Mason — was inadequate, prompting a number of graduate students to organize their own.

“That survey didn’t look at academic and career issues at all,” he said. “It was very narrowly focused around child care and the options the people who constructed the survey thought were feasible. We wanted a more open-ended survey.”

But Deputy Provost Charles Long maintained that the Bright Horizons survey was an effective tool that continues to guide the administration as it evaluates the University’s childcare.

“It was quite comprehensive,” he said. “The survey was an important way of gauging the areas that needed the most help.”

Long said he thinks the survey released today was unnecessary.

“How much can these [surveys] tell you that we didn’t already know? We knew that we do not have enough affordable child care,” he said. “The question is really how much affordable child care can we create.”

Chris Mason GRD ’07 said he founded the Working Group on Child Care at Yale, which first convened in November, as a way to bring all the relevant groups together to advocate for child-care reform. The group included representatives from the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, Graduate Student Assembly, Graduate Employees and Students Organization, Locals 34 and 35, postdoctoral fellows, members of Yale’s Child Study Center and representatives from the day care providers affiliated with the University.

The working group’s survey found that Yale graduate student families that do not have children have median incomes over $22,000 lower than those who do. These results, organizers said, show that the main obstacle to having children is financial need.

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents were female. Overall, 62 percent of those who replied were from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, totaling 11 percent of the school’s student body. Only 5 percent of professional school students completed the online survey, nearly half of whom were from the School of Medicine.

The Bright Horizons survey received 5,146 responses from faculty, staff, graduate and professional students and postdoctoral trainees, including 1,319 from students and trainees. But only those who already had children could answer questions about ways to improve child care at Yale, Victor said.

Delays in releasing the Bright Horizon survey’s conclusions bred resentment among some graduate students, said Mason, president of the GSA at the time and now chair of its child-care committee. He said the Provost’s Office would not discuss the survey’s results with students until a meeting in September 2005 and then only after months of persuading.

The Provost’s Office has set up a WorkLife Advisory Committee on child care to discuss the issues raised by the Bright Horizons survey and plans for the ongoing child-care initiative, which includes plans for a new child-care center and programs to complement the current child-care options. The committee held its first meeting last month and is scheduled to meet again Thursday. The working group and advisory committee share some members, and Mason said the working group will now focus on ensuring that those groups not represented on the committee still have their voices heard.

Stephanie Spangler, deputy provost for biomedical and health affairs, said earlier this month that she expects there to be an announcement describing these programs sometime after the advisory committee meets, though not necessarily after the next meeting.

Some graduate students said they did not take the survey because they do not plan to have children while at Yale, and others said the child-care offerings would not make a difference.

“I plan to probably have a child or two within my stay at Yale, but it’s not really dependent on whether or not child care at Yale improves,” Sage Ross GRD ’10 said.

Other students said they participated in the survey because they thought there needed to be more of a focus on the issue.

“It seemed to me that the original survey that Yale put out left out a lot of questions that met grad students’ needs,” said Elizabeth Kim GRD ’10, who did not design the survey but did help advertise it as part of GPSS.

Rachael Jackman GRD ’07, who worked on the survey, said the administration’s next move may determine whether or not she has children.

“I’m still trying to figure it out, to be honest,” she said. “These kinds of changes could affect if I decide to stay in academia. Yale could really be a leader on this issue.”

Comments