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University Plans Childcare Facility in Allston

SEAS Sign
The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Professors at the school pushed for the University to open a new childcare facility in Allston.
The University plans to build a new childcare facility in Allston, the first expansion in decades, according to Judith D. Singer, vice provost for faculty development and diversity.

Singer said in a February interview the decision was prompted by the concerns of professors in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“A lot of the credit for pushing that forward, in addition to the people in the central administration wanting it, was the Engineering school,” Singer said. “And the faculty, both women and men in the engineering school, who very much wanted to have on-campus childcare which is good for both women and men.”

The decision to build a new childcare center arrives as SEAS, Harvard’s youngest and fastest growing school, prepares its long-awaited move to Allston in the fall of 2020.

Singer said that family-centered initiatives like the childcare center began as efforts to help women affiliated with the University achieve a better work-life balance.

Work-life balance has proved a source of tension between the University and faculty, graduate students, and staff with families for years. Some have argued childcare services are unaffordable and cater more to professors with higher salaries than graduate students and staff.

Demand for centers like the planned one in Allston remains high. In 2015, the six existing childcare centers offered about 400 daycare slots for the entire University. An individual center, though, sometimes receives requests for 500 slots.

Costs exacerbate the problem, even for those who do get the spots: some centers can charge around $20,000 to 25,000 a year for one child, according to Harvard Human Resources’ website.

Singer said policies in the last 10 or 15 years, many of which resulted from task forces on women, have ameliorated the issue.

“We now have a whole variety of policies, medical leave for women who give birth, parental leave, tenure clock extensions—those are gender neutral—and childcare subsidies, which make it possible to not worry about being able to afford childcare,” she said.

Physics professor Matthew D. Schwartz wrote in an email he thinks the new center will greatly mitigate demand for childcare, despite high costs.

“If a Harvard employee wants to pay $3000/month for childcare, they should at least have the opportunity to do so,” he wrote. “So by all means, opening more centers to saturate the demand should be a high priority and I am strongly in favor of the center in Allston.”

According to Singer, the University spends about a million dollars a year for childcare.

Singer added that she thought these policies all gained traction as a part of the University’s increasing emphasis on women, which she said would not have been possible without the increased presence of female faculty.

“The University now does things there were unthinkable 20 years ago,” she said. “Unthinkable—we wouldn’t have thought that to be an important component because if you don’t have a lot of female faculty, you’re not going to make that kind of commitment. So it’s a big shift.”

—Staff writer Luke W. Xu can be reached at luke.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @duke_of_luke_

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper contributed reporting.

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