We are thankful to have the support of our faculty members, our fellow students, as well as outside organizations. If you would like to contribute a statement of support, please contact us.
NU Faculty & Staff
From Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Associate Professor of Political Science, Director of Graduate Studies)
I agree with these priorities and strongly support the initiative to develop a more family-friendly environment for our graduate students. Doing so not only will enable Northwestern to recruit and retain the most competitive and talented graduate students but will also ensure that the students who are amongst us enjoy working conditions that maximize their potential and productivity without jeopardizing their important—indeed crucial—roles as parents and caregivers.
From Will Reno (Director of the Program of African Studies)
It is frustrating as a faculty member to see repeatedly how promising students drag out training because they are forced into the labor- and time-intensive chores of raising a family in poverty in the United States. The NU Parent Alliance advances a sensible agenda that, in my view, offers solutions that would benefit our institution.
From Ellen Wartella (Chair, Communication Studies), Michelle Shumate (Director, Media, Technology, Society), Anne Marie Piper (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies) and Liz Gerber (Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering)
Providing student-parents with appropriate support is essential to recruiting and retaining the highest quality students and enabling our current graduate students to maximize their full potential. Several of the policies they suggest, including more dedicated lactation rooms and more childcare support, would benefit our efforts to recruit and retain high quality faculty and staff as well.
From Cristina Traina (Chair, Religious Studies)
Over the past 20 years,Northwestern has made great strides toward providing parenting faculty the tools to manage their work and families. It is time to give equal consideration to our graduate students, who after all are de facto members of our faculty. It seems to me that the requests [made by the Student Parent Alliance], constitute a baseline, not an aspiration, for our treatment of our graduate students. [..] Please realize that our current policies not only cause suffering for student parents, who after all are in their reproductive years, but also will soon, if they do not already, guarantee that bright graduate students opt for our peer institutions and steer clear of Northwestern. It’s a matter of justice and a matter of institutional quality and pride.
From Laura Beth Nielson (Director, Legal Studies)
Better support and formal policies would help not only graduate
students, but also their faculty supervisors who must juggle our own family needs, the demands of the job, and our graduate students’ family needs as well [..]Becoming a leader by investing resources for graduate student parents fits nicely with many of our stated institutional goals and recognizes the enormous sacrifices made by our graduate students.
From The Department of African American Studies
We are pleased to write on behalf of the NU Student Parent Alliance to express our strong support for their efforts to improve the conditions essential to parents at NU and to voice our concern for the gap between current provisions at the University and the ideal level of support that should be provided to ensure the academic and professional success of NU parents.
NU Student Groups
Graduate Leadership Advocacy Council (GLAC)
The GLAC recognizes the additional, and substantial, burdens placed on those with families while pursuing graduate studies. Here at Northwestern, graduate students vary in age, gender, race, ethnicity, creed, faith, sexual orientation, and other arenas of life. The university should incorporate the needs of student parents into its institutional goals of diversity and inclusion.
From Commune Organization of Political Science Graduate Students
The need for increased resources for students with families is a perennial issue among our graduate student body. Concerns over this issue have been raised multiple times before our tenure, as reflected by events held by our organization centered on balancing work and family life.[..] We thank you for meeting with students to address their concerns over policies and resources relevant to student parents at Northwestern. We strongly support their proposals and hope that The Graduate School seriously reconsiders the support and resources that are available for student parents.
From the Anthropology Graduate Student Association
As fellow students and some of us also parents, we recognize that additional burden is placed on those with families while pursuing graduate studies. We encourage The Graduate School and other relevant campus administrators to consider the primary areas requiring immediate attention and action identified by the Northwestern University
Student Parent Alliance
NU Civically Engaged Graduate Students
We are a group of Northwestern University graduate students from all disciplines who dedicate our time and talents to addressing social problems and engaging in civic life. The current situation facing student parents at Northwestern is certainly a social problem that needs to be addressed. We are very proud–and not surprised– that two of our board members, are leaders in this effort to improve our academic community. We encourage the administration to take measurable steps to provide meaningful solutions to establish equal opportunities for all of the graduate student community at a leading research institution such as Northwestern University.
From the Queer Pride Graduate Student Association (QPGSA)
The issues facing student parents as a whole uniquely affect queer-identified student parents. QPGSA recognizes that the initiatives that NU Student Parents Alliance proposes address more than student mothers at Northwestern. Students who are same-sex partners of birthing mothers or adoptive parents currently do not receive any parental leave, let alone the maternal leave that graduate student mothers currently receive. Additionally, what lactation rooms Northwestern’s campus has are labeled “Mother’s Rooms,” excluding the gender queer and transgender parents who may chest feed their children. Such inequities compound the marginalization that queer student parents face with the marginalization of graduate student parents as a whole. The initiatives that the NU Student Parents Alliance proposes can improve the quality of life and work for Northwestern graduate student parents, particularly those who face further marginalization on account of their sexual and/or gender identity and expression.
We are Breastfeed Chicago, a 13,000+ member strong organization with the mission to change the breastfeeding culture in Chicagoland. We support the Northwestern Student/Parent Alliance in their efforts to make Northwestern University’s campuses more welcoming and accommodating for breastfeeding families – that is students, full- and part-time faculty, staff, administrative employees, and visitors. We recognize, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics, that breastfeeding is not simply a lifestyle choice, but is an important public health issue as it has profound impact on the long-term health and wellbeing of women and babies alike. We additionally recognize, as does the National Women’s Law Center, that, “[r]efusing to accommodate breastfeeding needs … sends students the message that being a mother is incompatible with educational success.”
Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago
GSU recognizes that the years we spend in graduate school correspond with peak childbearing years, especially for women. Graduate employees are not just researchers and teachers: we give birth, adopt children, and care for families of all kinds. For this reason, we have always maintained that grad employees deserve the same family benefits as faculty and staff [..] UChicago GSU applauds the work of the NU Student Parent Alliance and stands in solidarity with its campaign on behalf of all parents, and prospective parents, at Northwestern University.
University of Illinois- Chicago (UIC) Graduate Employees Organization
In order for Northwestern University to remain a leader in research and higher education, we believe supporting graduate students, many of whom are in childbearing and childrearing years, requires creating and sustaining a viable family-friendly campus environment. Thank you for considering these requests to address the aforementioned pressing issues. We ask that you take immediate action in response to their concerns.
Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Michigan
As one of the oldest graduate employee unions in the country and a longtime advocate for graduate employee parents, the Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Michigan supports the Northwestern University Student Parent Alliance in its current campaign.[..] Few issues energize our members (parents and non-parents alike) more than our ongoing efforts to make graduate school more family-friendly. In recent years, GEO has won several important victories, including a parental leave policy for grad employees, a child care stipend, and a commitment from the administration to make more lactation spaces available to student employees. Although there is still a lot of progress to be made, these measures have provided important forms of support for graduate student employee parents. Such support makes us better teachers and researchers and facilitates our timely progress through degree programs.
National Women’s Law Center
Not only is discrimination against pregnant and parenting students illegal under Title IX, but such treatment also pushes them out of educational programs. Schools must, at a minimum, prevent discrimination against pregnant and parenting students, but schools can — and should — do much more to support them and enable them to succeed in their studies. In order to combat the potential for pregnancy discrimination at the University, Northwestern should have a written policy on pregnant and parenting students, including procedures for addressing pregnancy discrimination complaints under Title IX and contact information for the school’s Title IX Coordinator. The policy should make clear that that the school will excuse all pregnancy-related, medically necessary absences and allow students to make up the work missed while absent, and that students are not required to take a leave of absence because of pregnancy or related conditions. The policy also should require faculty and staff to work with pregnant and parenting students to craft an individualized plan for making up missed work; clearly indicate the process for requesting accommodations and the type of accommodations available; and be published online and in handbooks and memos to students, faculty, and staff. Additionally, Northwestern should ensure that its administrators, faculty, and staff members receive training on Title IX and the school’s obligations with respect to the treatment of pregnant and parenting students.