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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Raising Kids As a Student, The University Series: McMaster University

I decided to start with McMaster University, because out of all the universities I've looked into so far, this will be the easiest to write about. First, a little background on the school:

McMaster was founded in 1887, and is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world. McMaster is a research-forcused university, and uses a student-centered, problem-based, interdisciplinary approach to learning known as the "McMaster Model". The school's homepage can be found here.

Hamilton, Ontario

21 173 full-time undergrads
3025 full-time graduates
296 acres, 45 buildings

I began my search at the Campus Health Centre website, whose mission is to "enhance education through health, and health through education". Their services relevant to sexually active or pregnant women include E-fill, which provides female students access to their birth control prescriptions online, sexuality choices counselling, other birth control options, pregnancy testing, emergency contraception pills, screening for sexually transmitted infections, as well as STD prevention counselling. As far as I could see, there was no information available regarding pregnancy options beyond what to do if you forget to take your birth control pill. On their Health Topics page, there are two articles listed under the label Sexual Health: B.Y.O.C - Bring Your Own Condom, and The Birth Control Pill and Pregnancy. In the Birth Control and Pregnancy article, they briefly mention actual pregnancies: "The cost of unintended pregnancy in Canada is a burden to the healthcare system with $30 million being spent on providing abortion in 1998". Nothing on what to do if you are pregnant, nothing on the options open to pregnant women beyond a brief mention of the costs associated with abortion. Thanks McMaster for reminding me that $30 million of our tax dollars are spent on killing. At least we both agree that its an unnecessary burden on the health care system.

So I had to continue my search elsewhere. McMaster also has a Student Health Education Centre (SHEC), which provides peer-based health education, resources, and support. Under their list of services they include a few possibly relevant services regarding pregnancy: confidential peer support, resources (books and pamphlets), and free confidential pregnancy testing. As an aside, they also offer free feminine hygiene products - pretty awesome.

So anyway, by this point I got a little impatient so I searched "McMaster pregnancy" in google, and found McMaster's policy pages on pregnancy and parental leave (here and here). Both pages only apply to McMaster employees and their families. I think (not 100% sure though) that graduate students would fall under this policy, but not undergrads. 

I also searched "McMaster daycare" in google and found that the school has a licensed daycare centre run by the Student Union. From their website [emphasis added]: 
"The Child Care Centre provides educational programs for children 18 months to 6 years old. The Centre also offers a program for senior kindergarten children as well as a day camp program during the months of July and August for children 5 to 7 years old. We provide an escort from GR Allan Elementary School back to the centre at ~11:30 a.m. after morning kindergarten during the school year.
The Centre's first line of clients are the children of McMaster undergraduate students. The Centre also accepts, on a priority basis, enrollment of children of graduate students, McMaster staff and faculty, and the community at large."
The Daycare hours are Mon-Fri 7:30 am - 6:00 pm, which is not bad considering undergraduate students often have classes starting at 8:30 am, but is not so great for those students who find themselves with night classes.   
The daycare fees for full time care (5 days/week) are as follows (effective Spring 2011):
Preschoolers: $827.00/month
Toddlers: $975.00/month
For part time care:
Preschoolers: $509.00/month for 3 days/week, $343.00/month for 2 days/week
Toddlers: $600.00/month for 3 days/week, $400.00/month for 2 days/week
There is no information offered to undergraduate students on how they could go about paying for the childcare. For instance, they don't mention any possibilities of bursaries, government aid, or financial aid provided through OSAP or McMaster. 

Either way, it is great that the university does offer a daycare specifically for undergraduate students' children. If only it wasn't so hard to find that information, and if only there was more resources available to undergrads (and graduate students) on how to deal with having a kid during school. There is absolutely no information as far as I could see on University policies regarding the completion of exams and assignments, or class attendance, for women who are pregnant or have young children.

There is one more service that I thought could be useful to pregnant women and student families known as McMaster Bread bin. They provide anonymous food assistance and distribution to McMaster students in need. This is actually a great program, so check it out.

However, McMaster University seems to fall short overall. And that, dear readers, is why this school is the easiest to write about ... as in, there was very little to actually write.

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