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A resource booklet for UCB graduate student parents, those considering having kids while in grad school, and everyone interested in helping push the University to become a more supportive place for student parents.
Graduate school can be a difficult, even hostile, place to bear or raise a child. Formal support for student parents remains limited, and informal norms or arrangements in our departments often discourage people from having children and penalize those who are caring for kids. Nevertheless, grad students, other workers, and feminist groups at the University of California have organized over multiple generatons to make campus a less hostile place for student parents. Those raising kids while in school now have some resources to draw upon. This booklet presents some of the resources that should be available to current graduate student parents. It’s definitely not comprehensive, and may not be entirely up-to-date. If you are looking for information about something that isn’t covered here, a good place to start would be the “Berkeley Parent’s Network,” an online support and information-sharing project. There is also a contact list on the back cover. This booklet is meant as well to serve as an introduction to, and invitation to join, ongoing organizing campaigns around issues of concern to student parents, particularly campaigns being crafted by the student workers union (UAW 2865) and the Affordability Committee of the Village Residents Association (VRA). The union is currently involved in contract negotiatons with university management, and issues affecting the lives of student parents are central to these negotiations.
Student parents can apply for family housing at University Village, which, despite recent rent increases, remains marginally less expensive than most housing in the area:
The VRA Affordability Committee recently published a report on the conditions of life for renters at University Village, which makes clear the continuing need for grad student housing subsidies and other forms of support:
As the report notes: “Of the households surveyed in UC Berkeley’s family housing, 39% survive on less than $20,000 a year. Most of those are single-parent, only child families, for whom the living wage is $48,288 in Alameda County, according to the MIT’s online living wage calculator.”
Many student parents coordinate informally with each other to share childcare responsibilities or costs. There are also a few childcare resources for student parents. The university offers an $8,000 dollar grant to graduate students who live with dependent children and demonstrate financial need. The application is here:
During contract negotiations in 2007, the UC studentworkers union (UAW 2865) won a childcare subsidy for student parents of pre-kindergarten-aged children. When employed as GSIs, readers, or tutors, student parents can get $900 per semester and $600 per summer session:
And in response to agitation by non-unionized graduate student researchers, university management has extended the childcare subsidy to GSRs. The application is here:
University management also just this year instituted a subsidized “backup” childcare program. Details are here:
There is a Day Care Co-op at University Village: Finally, there is a childcare center on campus, which offers subsidized rates depending on financial need:
Health coverage for dependents remains prohibitively expensive at UC Berkeley. Coverage for a spouse or domestic partner is $2,130 dollars per semester, while coverage for a child is approximately $1,845 dollars. It’s necessary to enroll by Sept. 15 for the fall semester, or by Feb. 15 for the spring semester. Details are here:
The UC student-workers union is organizing during the current round of contract negotiations for full dependent care subsidies for student workers. Because of changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act, UCB’s student health insurance plan now covers more prenatal and preventative care. For details, see:
Because we work part time, student workers don’t qualify for leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act. But people who are unable to work for a period of time because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions are entitled to disability leave, and to retain their health insurance during the leave. It’s necessary to consult with a doctor early on in the pregnancy to be sure you will receive such support. Salaried ASEs who are birth parents are also provided in the contract a bit more than four weeks of paid leave; for non-birth parents, it’s two weeks. But many GSIs simply are denied positions when they are pregnant. This practice may constitute pregnancy-related discrimination. If you are concerned about this, you can contact a union representative about your rights to paid leave, which the union is working to expand in this round of contract negotiations.
The nursing support program at UCB provides trainings and on-campus nursing rooms w/ pumps. To get a key code for the nursing rooms, contact Jackie Armstrong:
A new systemwide UC policy also declares that lactating employees will have access to refrigeration space. But this access is spotty at UCB. If you need refrigeration space, you can contact a department admininistrator; if they are unresponsive, you can contact a union representative. The UC student health insurance plan now covers pumps:
The Bear Pantry, located in the Cesar Chavez Center at UCB, provides food packages to student parents who are facing a shortage of food during the semester. You can contact Koko Mulder at the Pantry at: 510-776-8486. The Alameda County Food Bank (510-635-3663) and Berkeley Pantry (510-525-2280) are open to residents. There are two kinds of food assistance administered by the state that student parents may be eligible for. To determine whether you are eligible for Food Stamps, visit:
For the “Women Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Plan,” see: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/wicworks/Pages/WICEligibilityAssessment01.aspx.
nursing & Food
If you have questions about the rights and protections to which you are entitled as a student worker or student parent, you can contact an elected head steward of the UC student-workers union. Additionally, if you have any interest in learning more about, or getting involved in, the campaigns around student parent issues that the union is working on, please contact a UCB head steward. The current union officers, along with their email addresses, are listed here: uaw2865.org/about/structure/elected-officers/ To find out about upcoming events or to follow the process of bargaining, see: berkeleyuaw2865.wordpress.com If you want to contact the Village Residents Association, email Caitrin Connolly-Olszewski: firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Berkeley Spouses and Parents group, email: email@example.com or visit:
To learn more about the UC Berkeley Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention (SPARR), you can call: 510-643-5729 or see: ocf.berkeley.edu/~spa/
Pictured on the cover: Heather and Punit Gandhi, w/ their children, Anula and Nayana. Photograph by: Jesse Livezey and Kevin Gutowsi.