A Baby Step

Despite some positive developments, Harvard must do more for its student-parents.

Harvard’s decision to provide Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students with membership in the caregiver-finding service Care.com and subsidize 10 days of childcare per student through the site is, on one level, admirable. Graduate students, through the Graduate Student Council and Harvard GSAS Student-Parents Association, have been tirelessly advocating for their education and their families, both of which will be better off for them having doing so.

For its part, GSAS responded correctly by offering these students and their peers free membership to Care.com and financially aiding students in actually purchasing the site’s services. In this respect, these parties each acted commendably to produce a solution with tangible benefits for both students and GSAS by the end of the fall. Students will be less strained in finding and paying for childcare, and GSAS will now have a portion of its student body more able to focus on successful teaching and research.

This development should also be viewed as a success of graduate students’ campaign to unionize, which includes childcare under its “Working for a Healthy Harvard” banner. Despite the inauspicious future of unionization, Harvard’s willingness to subsidize childcare so soon after the campaign shows students’ prowess in negotiating with the administration for more benefits.

Nevertheless, this agreement is far from a comprehensive solution to the problems facing graduate students who are balancing academic and parental commitments. Ten subsidized days per year—while undeniably helpful in the event of emergency—is no panacea for the need for year-round support that graduate student parents and their children require. This situation is particularly pernicious when viewed in the light of the issues female academics face because of their gender. Those issues include balancing academic commitments with pregnancy and childrearing, the financial problems incurred by this balance, the potentially reduced availability of contraceptives due to the Trump administration’s policies, and statistically lower tenure rates than men. While the new proposal is an important step toward ensuring female academics are as set up for success as men, it is clear much more must be done to reach this goal.

These aims are in the interests of the University as well: Better resources for female academics will bolster Harvard’s reputation as well as attract and retain female scholars at all levels of their careers. These efforts can help make Harvard a more equitable institution that empowers the academic leaders the University aspires so strongly to create. Hence, Harvard must ensure that all of its graduate students have access to affordable, comprehensive childcare. While this recent agreement will not fully solve this problem, it’s a baby step in the right direction.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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