Thursday, January 11, 2007

Childcare at UBC: a small step forward

AMS Council Meeting was productive today. This is the 3rd last meeting before turnover.

What came forward as an addendum to the Agenda was a motion for the AMS to contribute 100 000$ a year for the next 10 years to expand the childcare program at UBC, such that the current 2-3 year waitlist is alleviated at least in part, adding 145 more childcare spots of the 1300 that need to be met. This is a small step forward but a significant one. As Jeff Friedrich (one of the leading executives in this initiative) said, this needs to be seen as a movement, not an end solution. The university/Province is expected to meet us with roughly $400 000 a year, and this will be voted on at next week Board of Governor's meeting.

Right now the 2-3 year long waitlist is ridiculous and it's unfeasible for students to access the service. Moreover, faculty members often get a head-start, as they register months in advance before they come to UBC. A lack of childcare service to students with children is an enormous barrier to their education. A lot of them are graduate and more mature students, bringing in a diverse perspective into the academic community.

So the motion today was a very positive one, and I thank the VP Academic Jeff Friedrich (whose portfolio childcare is under) and President Kevin Keystone who worked on this. I also thank the council for unanimously passing this motion tonight. What's even greater about this is (if it passes at Board next week) that 40% of childcare spots from Phase I and II (we are not contributing to Phase II of the expansion project at all!) will be designated and protected to go towards students.

My initial concern which I raised was that we the student society are offloading the responsibility of the Province and the University to fund these glaring needs. Stephen Toope himself called the childcare situation a "crisis". However my concerns were appeased before the council meeting by the aforementioned executives:

"CPAC was originally established to fund childcare, so we’re just seeing out a key piece of it’s mandate – students voted in 1999 to create the fund to increase the number of childcare spaces on campus, and we tried but the proposal we put up money towards fell through. So even if we are doing the university’s job, students voted to do it." (Kevin Keystone)

Whoever the next President and VP Academic will be, they will have to follow up on this initiative and see negotiations through. They will also have to continue the important dialogue created tonight in committing to childcare needs for students at the Vancouver campus of UBC.

(Photo: taken in 2004 at the UBC International House)