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Childcare Access an Issue

By Garrett M. Graff and Robin M. Wasserman, Crimson Staff Writerss

Junior faculty as a whole are affected by a scarcity of childcare, but the problem is particularly acute for mothers.

The 1991 report on women in the sciences concluded that many young scientists found family and academic careers mutually exclusive goals, especially in an intense environment like Harvard.

"Prevailing opinion might be caricatured in the observation 'having children is viewed as a personal decision, just like buying a Mercedes,"' the report reads.

According to Assistant Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Doherty, many still view the decision to have children as a lifestyle choice, one that the Faculty should not have any special obligations to support.

"There are equity concerns about dealing with childcare expenses," she says. For example, the University has no plans to help faculty members who have aging parents or other special-needs relatives and face similar financial burdens.

Many faculty feel that they shouldn't have to make a choice between having careers and having children.

"If I could actually stop my career temporarily for five or six years while my daughter goes off to school, I would do it, but I know I can't," says Alyssa A. Goodman, who recently became the second woman ever to gain tenure in the astronomy department. Parents are left with few options as childcare is expensive in Cambridge.

A professor with two young children enrolled in full-time Harvard-affiliated care can easily be paying almost $3,000 a month, Doherty says. The 1991 report noted that the cost of childcare consumes almost a third of a junior faculty member's salary.

Daycare expenses aren't the only factor proving troublesome for prospective parents. The lack of stability in Harvard¹s tenure system "absolutely" turns away women looking to start families, Goodman says.

Some administrative changes since 1991 have improved the situation for faculty parents.

The primary caregiver relief program gives a semester of full-time teaching relief or a year of half-time teaching relief. The Faculty will also extend teaching contracts for up to two years for junior faculty who must care for their children.

A new daycare center for faculty children has recently opened near the Botanic Gardens apartments near the Radcliffe Quad. FAS has tried to have the new center meet the needs of the faculty, including having the center run extended hours.

"It doesn't solve the problem,...but it is at least a move in the right direction," Doherty says.

She adds that the question of the University subsidizing daycare arises from time to time, and she hopes that steps will be taken in the future. Doherty is acutely aware of the burden of childcare - her third child just entered kindergarten.

--Garrett M. Graff and Robin M. Wasserman

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