Policy aids staff during child care emergencies

By Allison Kirk / Herald Contributor

Through the advocacy of the RWU Women’s Affinity Group, a new child policy has been created for parents on campus.  

The new change will allow employees to bring their children to school campus if they are faced with unexpected circumstances. The only caveat is there must be approval from a supervisor.

Initially, a child policy established in 2003 stated that children of employees should not be present during the employee’s work schedule. Children were only able to come on campus if invited. 

Jennifer Pierce is one of the co-chairs of the Women’s Affinity Group, which involves women and women-identified staff and faculty gatherings to discuss campus climate and other relevant subjects. Pierce described a time when the original policy affected her. In 2016, she wanted to see the author of the two-volume comic “Maus,” Art Spiegelman, who came to campus as a keynote speaker. The event was open to the public. However, as an employee, she could not bring her children. 

While the new policy does allow for some leeway, it emphasizes that the workplace “may not be used as an alternative to regular child care, and bringing children to the workplace on a frequent basis, such as during school breaks or before/after school is not permitted. Likewise, a child who is ill and thus unable to attend school or day care may not be brought to the workplace.”

The policy will be overseen and ensured by the Department of Human Resources. Regarding applicability, the policy states it does not apply to a child’s participation in university-sponsored programs or events. However, it is still not evident what events and activities children are welcome to attend. 

While it was the Women’s Affinity Group who advocated for this, Deb Knapman, co-chair of the group explained that it will benefit other groups besides women on campus.

“I just want to remark that this is a policy good for men, women, people who don’t identify in the binary,” Knapman said. “It’s just good for families. I don’t think it’s a women’s issue.” 

Many faculty members wish to see the balance of work and family flourish. Pierce said marine biology professor Brian Wysor also put forth a lot of effort.

The Women’s Affinity Group also gives a lot of credit to President Miaoulis

Miaoulis previously won an award for improving women’s situations in the workplace and has been actively engaging with the group. Knapman said Miaoulis seeks their feedback and suggestions on how to improve employee’s lives. He even acknowledged and thanked the group for their advocacy. 

“I think we will see more changes like this that affect work-life balance and other issues which are perceived as being women focused, but in reality help employees of all genders regardless,” Knapman said.

Interim Chief of Staff Brian Williams said the changes just enacted are a first step. The university will learn from these current changes and see how they work, while continuing to be open to the ideas and needs of employees.

Knapman and Pierce expressed the many ideas being thought about, such as conflict and resolutions, hiring a new female safety officer and the need for a day care on campus.

This isn’t a new idea and many are on board already, such as Lindsey Gumb, the Scholarly Communications Librarian. 

“I’d personally love to see a summer camp/care option made available on campus,” Gumb said.

The university has done some research into a child care center on campus and many in the Women’s Affinity Group feel it would be beneficial.