Unanimous Faculty Senate vote urges the college to revoke its new children on campus policy; Monday rally planned

By Anna Busalacchi, Managing Editor

Ryan Brumback

A vote urging the college not to implement a “draconian” policy on allowing children on campus passed unanimously at Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting, and outraged faculty and staff plan to rally in front of the administration building on Monday.

The Faculty Senate’s motion “strongly requests that the College immediately rescind the guidelines” on its Bringing Children to Campus policy.

The motion also requests that the new policy should reflect Columbia’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and provide resources such as on-site day care or partnerships with South Loop day cares. The Senate called on the administration to create a new policy that reflects the input of all of the stakeholders who are affected by decisions about when, where and how children may be permitted on campus.

Senators also decided to include the Chairs’ Council in the motion after prompting from Jessica Young, associate professor in the Dance Department and co-chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, and from Chairs’ Council representative Lisa Gonzales, chair of the Dance Department.

As reported by the Chronicle, the college’s children on campus policy, released Sept. 21 and recapitulated on Sept. 22, was met with criticism from the Columbia community.

Under the policy, employees are not permitted to bring minor children to campus without prior college approval, and for no more than one hour. Faculty, staff and students must also get approval through procedures some consider unnecessarily complicated.

“It feels so draconian, and it’s disappointing to me,” said David Worrall, vice-chair of the Senate’s Financial Affairs Committee and professor in the Audio Arts and Acoustics Department.

Thursday a coalition of organizations representing faculty, staff and students released a joint statement in opposition to the policy, signed by leaders of Columbia’s Part-Time Faculty Union, the United Staff of Columbia College, the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association.

“We ask that the college reverse its recent decision, and we stand together ready to engage in a complex and evidence-based conversation about campus policies, during and post-COVID, that acknowledge and support the diverse family contexts of our college community members,” the statement read.

Madhurima Chakraborty, president of the Faculty Senate and an associate chair in the English and Creative Writing Department, said that in her weekly meeting with the Office of the Provost last Friday, Oct. 1, “There was no commitment to going back to an open campus post-COVID-19.”

Some faculty questioned the reasoning stated by the college on Sept. 22 — that the children on campus policy was set forth for COVID-19 safety reasons.

The Sept. 22 email stated, “The recent announcement about children on campus was primarily driven by the need to clarify how COVID-19 impacts practices with regard to employees and students bringing minor children on campus as visitors.”

Chakraborty said she received an email regarding the joint statement from Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David shortly before Friday’s meeting. While David said a working group led by Senior Associate Provost Nathan Bakkum would further explore child care options, she reiterated that “this work is not to rescind the recently announced aspects of the visitor policy affecting children.”

Chakraborty said the Faculty Senate executive committee feels strongly that David’s response is narrowing the view of what the joint statement asked for because it is not addressing the request for an inclusive conversation about the problems.

Carmelo Esterrich, associate professor in the Humanities, History and Social Science Department and a member of the Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, questioned the college’s assumptions when creating the new policy.

“I’m wondering if this is an issue about assumptions of what professionalism is and assumptions of what our student body is,” Esterrich said.

In response to the policy, a rally, organized by Jennifer Sadler, assistant professor and director of graduate studies in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department and Faculty Senate vice president, and Jackie Spinner, associate professor in the Communication Department and a member of the Senate’s Executive Committee, is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside of the 600 S. Michigan Ave. building for “Columbia College Chicago parents, their children and allies” to protest the restrictions regarding children on campus.

In an interview with the Chronicle Friday, Chakraborty said she plans to attend the rally, along with her son, because he is off from school for Indigenous Peoples Day.

“I really hope [the college] sees the magnitude of who is affected by this policy, … being parents, being guardians, this is part of [what] we bring to college. These are part of our strengths when we work here or when we study here, and I really hope it’s taken seriously,” Chakraborty said.