Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow Days and On-Campus Childcare

We had another snow day today, after three last week. The kids got to stay home from preschool, which is the worst news in the world for my 3.5 year old daughter who adores going to school. Add to that that today was supposed to be Fun Friday, well, you can imagine how devastated she was. How much snow was on the ground, you ask? About an inch, maybe two.


I grew up in Canada, aka The Great White North. Snow days were unheard of when I was growing up. It didn't matter how much snow was on the ground or how cold it was outside, we went to school, often walking there. And we went outside at recess and after lunch (at least in elementary school). The buses may have been late arriving, but you got on and you showed up at high school. I can remember driving home for the weekend from university in one of the worst snow storms; there's nothing like an hour and a half trip that takes four hours in a beater car where we have to pull over every couple of miles to scrape the windshield to prove how brain-damaged young adults really are. And I was back at school on Monday. 

Our local schools serve a large and largely rural population, so while I live in town where there is little problems with the roads, I understand that people living out in the hills and off of essentially dirt roads would have a little more trouble and why we wouldn't want the buses to try making their way up there and back. But the problem isn't with the local schools, it's with the university.

As pointed out by Dr. Crazy, many universities don't have a very good plan in place for the inevitable and eventual arrival of snow. Ours is no exception. While every single campus, school, and daycare around us was shut down, our university was only on two hour delay (in other words, any class before 10 AM was canceled, but any class/meeting/activity scheduled for after ten was on). This is no big deal for us, as my husband doesn't teach on Fridays, but on other days, this would present a problem when we have to go to work and our kids aren't going to school. You can tell a snow day on campus because it's either crawling with kids or devoid of professors and students, many of whom have children of their own to care for. 

One of the first questions, for better or worse, that I would ask a search committee when I was doing interviews was if they had on-campus childcare available. It's one thing to leave your eight-year-old in your office watching DVDs or playing computer games or (even better) reading, but it's something all together different when you have to figure out what to do with your toddler while you teach or attend an important (or required) meeting. On-campus childcare ensures that faculty and students have a place that is safe and close by for their kids. It also means that on days were everything else is shut down, parents can still get the work done that is expected of them, be it teaching or being a student. 

Every year, there are snow days for most but not for us at the university. Where I live, we'll never get more snow plows. But maybe we can hope for childcare that is more responsive to the hours the university demands we keep. 

Never mind. I'd have better luck getting more snow plows.


  1. Hi, I looked you up after reading your recent guest post on Motherlode. My husband and I also work in higher education. We were at the University of Tennessee at Martin -- good 'ol OVC -- for three years. Now we are at a community college in Southeast Missouri. UT Martin had a terrific childcare center. The college we are at now closed their's about a month before we moved here. I was so disappointed. To me an on-campus child care center is one of the most important benefits an institution can offer its faculty and staff. Anyway, it's nice to "meet" you. I look forward to reading more from you. I'm an adjunct instructor of English and I'm considering applying for a faculty position, so I found your other recent post interesting -- How not to prepare... On the other hand, this is my first semester teaching so I may wait until I'm sure about this whole teaching thing.

  2. Welcome! I'm glad you found me! I've worked at schools that had childcare and others that didn't (and in between-you have to wait until they're two, which coupled with absolutely terrible family leave policies don't actually help faculty). I've adjuncted and been on the TT, so I know both sides. There are advantages and disadvantages on both counts. As for evaluating how you feel about teaching in informing your decision to find a TT job? If you are looking at the CC system, then yes, teaching is very, very important. But if you're looking at working a college or university, you had better love research, writing, and committee meetings more.

    Good luck. i'd invite you to check out the bloggers that I follow (on the right, up top). They are all wonderful bloggers dealing with "real life" on and off the TT. There is a balance of traditional and non-traditional PhDs and academics. Don't just go by your experience; find out what we all have experienced, for better or for worse. Especially if you and your spouse are academics.

    Good luck and hope to see you again.


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