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Community Space and Child Care

Guest Column
Soulaymane Kachani

Child care for graduate students is an issue that the Graduate Student Council takes very seriously. At the March 7 Sidney-Pacific Crisis Committee meeting, we clearly outlined that affordable child care for graduate students is one of the pressing issues to be addressed. We have already begun a conversation about this with Associate Dean for Graduate Students and Chair of the Women Advisory Board Blanche Staton.

Our commitment to affordable child care is nothing new. In fact, the MIT Technology Children’s Center (TCC) approached us last October to support them in subsidizing child care costs for graduate students. Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert generously agreed to match our funds to TCC. At the November General Council meeting (our meetings are always open to all graduate students), we amended our budget (a rare procedure) and allocated money for TCC. The funds were transferred in early January.

The Tech article “GSC Wins Day Care Battle” [March 9] needs to be placed in context. The Graduate Student Council has been involved for many years in getting the Institute to move ahead with its plans to provide “affordable graduate housing close to campus.” As I am sure many of you are aware, affordable housing in the area surrounding Cambridge is practically non-existent. Graduate stipends do not reflect the cost of living in Cambridge and neighboring cities.

The GSC successfully called for two new graduate dormitories: Sidney-Pacific and NW30. Sidney-Pacific will house 750 graduate students. Together with graduate dorm leaders, the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee has worked very hard over the past fall with the Real Estate Office to get adequate community space in the building. After a marathon of consultations, we are reasonably satisfied with the design of the dorm as it stands now. However, we are still advocating a second housemaster in the building.

The decision to include a “revenue-generating” day care center in the dorm was unexpectedly brought upon us a month ago without prior student input. This idea consists of eliminating the only sizeable community space in favor of a childcare center almost solely targeted towards faculty and staff. Losing the little community space we have in this building would mean ending up with the same failures as Tang, Eastgate and Westgate in terms of design and community space. Given that Sidney-Pacific will house twice the number of graduate students as Tang, and will most probably be the only new graduate dorm built in the next 30 years, lack of community space for graduate students’ activities will harm the efforts to build a graduate student community.

Eastgate and Westgate’s childcare facilities are being renovated (their capacity will increase) and a new child care center of 100+ children capacity will be available at the Stata Center. Will this help married graduate students? The answer is no; here are the reasons. Only 10 percent of the children in Eastgate and Westgate day care centers are children of graduate students. This limitation is an unacceptable administrative decision that the GSC is ready to advocate reversing, with the input of graduate students with children. Further, child care centers at MIT are not affordable for graduate students given the current stipends. GSC has successfully demanded increases in stipends: an 8 percent raise in engineering and a 16 percent raise in science. The GSC is further working with the provost for a total subsidy of the medical costs for all graduate students including spouses, partners and children, and will continue advocating additional quality-of-life improvements. It is not the role of the GSC to call for additional day care for faculty and staff at the expense of graduate students.

The GSC is a diverse group of individuals that aims to bring all graduate students together. All graduate students are GSC members. Our meetings are advertised in The Tech and postered weekly around campus. Please attend our meetings, and voice your concerns and criticism. We welcome your suggestions on how to improve communication between the Council and graduate students. Our next Housing and Community Affairs Committee meeting will be on Wednesday March 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the GSC office (50-220). Our next General Council meeting is on Wednesday April 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the GSC office. We hope to see you all at these meetings.

Soulaymane Kachani G is the President of the Graduate Student Council.