What would you do if a university student wanted to bring her newborn to class?

(369 Posts)
camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:04:49

That is really. I have to make a decision regarding this. I need advice. I want to accommodate this student as much as possible but I am very aware of disrupting other students' learning experience.
What would you do?

I would imagine a lot has changed in academia.

The bums on seats thing may be to do with privileged people wanting things to be kept the same as they always have been. But I've seen a reasonable amount of research (don't ask me to find it, I don't have time right now) that shows a clear link between undergrad attendance and performance.

Why might this be? Probably a combination of:

Because engaged students tend to turn up and also to perform better
Because undergrads are still getting used to the whole independent learning thing, so the social element of learning together benefits them
Because they get to hear and discuss things they wouldn't if they just read the stuff themselves
Because many of them won't read the stuff unless they think everyone else is and they will look really silly if they can't participate.

No doubt a combination of these and many other factors.

So the question is can we replicate the benefits of regular attendance in ways that are less exclusionary of some students?

I'd like to think so, but it should be done carefully.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 24-Jan-14 13:46:54

Unsure if covered, why does it matter if it's the mother please?

Would you be happy for dad, or any relative to bring a newborn in?

If not why not?

PleaseJust I agree and I am also encouraged that many of the people arguing for finding a way to be inclusive are academics.

Though I totally take the points of those who have pointed out the dangers of increasing women's work by increasing expectations of multi-tasking and also of the importance of child-free space to work free from distraction.

I have enjoyed this thread and it has made me think.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 24-Jan-14 13:48:05

YY, this is what I am thinking.

I know that age 18-22, which is when most people go to university, is a time when things like depression and anxiety aren't that uncommon, and I believe (could be wrong) that it's also when some other mental health issues tend to start showing if you have them - and if you're badly depressed, sometimes it can be extremely hard to talk and easier to write.

Obviously there's a flipside in that you need to really work to make it feel like a network, a community where people know each other and that would be extremely difficult to do purely online. But you could try.

Re. bums on seats - when I was at university, if you were persistently absent without permission, you could be fined! Never happened to me (not for lack of absence, for lack of being a cocky git about skiving, which tended to be the real reason they'd bother to fine you). However, my lectures weren't mandatory. Where I am now, I take attendance and they are required to attend. If they persistently truant, they can get chucked out. I'm not sure what I think of it.

Something I find very difficult is that I am supposed to mark them on participation in seminars. Obviously that's important and it's not fair not to contribute. But with some of them, it clearly is shyness. So I tend to put them in groups, then eavesdrop the quiet ones, and then I'll say something like 'right, Jane, you had a brilliant point about x just now'. But I suspect some of the Janes (it is usually women) would be quite able to write down what they thought if need be.

Sorry, I see that all of this is getting a long way away from the original question and I hope the OP isn't offended. blush

Mini the discussion was started about a particular student, who is female.

Speaking as someone who has argued for her inclusion where possible, I'd say that if a dad or another carer were in the same situation, I'd try and accommodate them too.

It would of course be an enormous blow for feminism if we all said 'Oy, no way, not fathers! The newborn should be in the care of its mother' grin

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 24-Jan-14 13:50:18

minne - I would be rather happier to see the dad bring a baby in, though I'd keep quiet about that! grin If more men did it I think it'd be a damn sight easier to explain to certain people that actually, yes, there is a real issue here. Depressing, but true.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 24-Jan-14 13:51:40

Also please, as I don't know, what are you classifying as mewborn ? And are there not policies in place for some sort of mat leave or supported study?

This can't be a new question surely....? Universities must see this and taken an approach....?

I have never been required to mark for participation. I used to be asked to keep records of attendance (it was a couple of years ago that I did lots of teaching, now not so much) but it was not to sanction, it was to identify if someone seemed to be having difficulty so that someone could have a chat and see if they needed support.

I know colleagues on some modules set work that has to be handed in and marked for each tutorial and that counts towards the final mark for that module. I am put off by the admin that requires, tbh, but if we had decent support I can see the value of such an approach.

When I had a baby doing my Masters and another during the early years of my PhD, I was able to suspend my studies for a year each time with no trouble.

That suited me, but for others it might present huge problems.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 24-Jan-14 13:56:39

Thank you. I'd like an accommodation too but am wary of....unsure which word appropriate...favouritism?

That said I'm a bit surprised there's not a supported study option in first few weeks? The question being asked you itself makes me assume there's no approach already in place...,? That can't be right....? Schools have to.

I think as a one off fine. I am conscious of the additional students though who may not be keen every week. What of their (hate this word but another escapes me) rights?

What sort of accommodation would you like mini?

If you have a personal tutor or there is a student advice team or similar, you could speak to them and get advice on what options there might be for you.

Generally, there's more that can be done if the student seeks help early and it will be less stressful for you.

At the university I went to, lecture attendance was not mandatory (but in the smaller lectures if you had the same seminar tutor it would be noticed and commented on) but seminar attendance was compulsory and you had to attend 80% to pass the course, or have very good reason.

kickassangel Fri 24-Jan-14 14:02:15

When I was talking to college about doing an MA I said I could have childcare problems. The immediate response was that lecturers would be expected to accommodate that in some way, including letting dd sit at the back and read or play games.

I think universities are realizing that lack of childcare tends to exclude mothers and that they should keep them in board, particularly as it helps them to make money.

I direct you to buffy's comment mini grin

I'd be quite happy if it was a dad taking care of his newborn. But the op is about a mother (and I will be the mother in class myself). My point is that the majority of caring for newborns is for biological reasons at least (the majority of women do bf at first at least) usually done by women so to kick newborns out is to mostly kick out women.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 24-Jan-14 14:18:34

I honestly don't know what the policy is where I am for undergraduates and maternity leave. I suspect, unfortunately, that students would probably simply be encouraged to intermit for the year, though for some this would work fine.

For postgrads it is different, and you do get normal maternity leave.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 24-Jan-14 14:40:18

Id guess I expected a kind of mat leave or supported study for six months with optional attendance to lectures/seminars/ outings. Is the only answer to defer a year? Thus separating you from all friends etc? Bizarre.

I'm a grad from myself. I assumed I guess that as schools do have answers in place for underage and up to 18 what is effectively a school for adults might have thought it through a bit. I'm a bit perplexed as this thread suggests there isn't much of anything in place.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Fri 24-Jan-14 14:40:55

I'm a grad myself. Not from myself. Blooming phone!

Mini you need to speak to someone at your university, there may well be options that suit you better than taking a year off. Maybe taking fewer modules and then taking an extra year or so to catch up those you've missed?

It depends on how you see it working for you and what sort of flexibility you think you will need. The university will also be keen to ensure that you don't end up as a 'dropped out' statistic so they may be wary if it seems you are being unrealistic about what you can achieve.

But the only way you can find out is to talk to someone. Student advisors or a personal tutor, but if they don't seem knowledgable or willing to help, keep talking to different people until you find someone who will back you.

Maybe an academic you've hit it off with would be willing to provide a sounding board? I would be happy to do this with a student, but would have to emphasise that I couldn't agree terms on behalf of the uni.

Good luck.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 24-Jan-14 15:07:08

minnie - as I say, I really don't know.

I think, sadly, the difficulty isn't just explicit institutional rules but implicit pressures. Certainly when I was 18, it was simply presented to me as 'not an option' to have a baby and study. Not because it was actually against the university rules, but because no-one I spoke to had anything to say except 'this is a very bad idea'. And it makes me angry that I know someone who was told precisely the same earlier this year, so some things don't change.

In terms of rules, it will vary from university to university, but I would worry about the implicit pressure to defer and return.

But this thread is only people talking about their own knowledge, and some of us (me!) only know what we've seen at our own instititions. It could be very different at others.

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