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Jan 26, 2001

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By JEFF TAM
CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After a meeting last quarter with undergraduates who are parents, the University began discussing a half-dozen programs and changes to address concerns in child care, financial aid and social and academic support.

After meeting with members of the ASSU, Provost John Etchemendy gathered a group of administrators to address the issues.

"We tried to address all their problems," Etchemendy said. The Office of Student Affairs has since come up with a series of solutions to some of the problems, including financial aid.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs, James Montoya, taking the lead on this issue, said that the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will be re-evaluating financial packages for undergraduate parents to account for their special status.

"When we admit students, we're very proud we have need-blind admissions," Etchemendy said. "Some students come with special needs." He said that Stanford "does what it can to enable students to benefit from what the University has to offer."

Some of the other immediate short-term solutions include: creating a list of all undergraduate parents at Stanford that will allow for better communication between them and creating a "dorm affiliate" program in which parents will have the opportunity to be linked with a dormitory, be put on the dormitory's e-mail list and have access to the support staff that the dormitory provides.

In the long run, the goal will be to create a "neighborhood" of undergraduate parents in Escondido Village so that they will be less socially isolated and will have their own support mechanisms.

But Montoya emphasized, "The 'neighborhood' concept will take several quarters to implement as it is dependent on vacancies developing in EV.

There are approximately 19 undergraduate parents at Stanford.

Dorm-affiliate program

In the meantime, a dorm affiliate program will be operational in February. Working in conjunction with Residential Education, Associate Dean of Students Morris Graves has put together the details of the program.

He said that those who wish to participate will each be assigned to a Resident Assistant and Resident Fellow in a four-class dormitory. They'll have the opportunity to participate in events with the residents of the dormitory, and will have dinner with residents. The program is set to be operational in February.

Sophomore Lisa Prieto, an undergraduate parent, said she was excited about the program. She said when she was a freshman, she was involved in a similar program where she was affiliated with Cedro.

"They didn't exclude me, that was nice, I liked it. The Cedro staff really made an extra effort to include me," she said. She also appreciated having the extra academic support provided by dormitories, in the form of academic tutors, or e-mail reminders to file study lists on time.

To extend this program for all undergraduate parents, not just freshmen, sounds good to her, she said.

"It might not be that useful, but I'd like to be more aware of campus events."

Senior Lindsay Pollak, a Resident Assistant in Mirlo, said the program "sounds like a good idea and it's important to get integrated with the social scene; the social scene at Stanford starts in the dorm."

She also said that "the person should feel comfortable in the dorm [and] should have meals in the dorm two or three times of the week."

For the program to work, Pollak believes, "both sides need to actively participate; the dorm should not be a mere activity resource."

Graves acknowledged that the dorm affiliate program was a short term solution.

"This is a beginning step. In the long term ideally, we'd have programs in [Escondido Village]," he said.

He said that eventually, he hoped to bring the support systems of an undergraduate dorm, such as Residential Education programs, to EV to accommodate undergraduates living there.

Etchemendy added, "They're excellent solutions; we'll have to initially start them in a haphazard way, but by next fall it will be made a much more regular process."

Undergraduate parents will also have to wait for a new child-care facility will be built in Stanford West, an apartment complex near campus, by next fall. Another facility is set to open in 2002 or 2003.

Reactions

Response to the solutions have been mixed.

Senior and parent Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr, who attended the meeting, said that for child care, "we probably won't see the results in time," and added that while "I haven't seen a concrete plan yet, the provost is committed to coming up with one."

Senior Chricelle McCloud said that as an older undergraduate parent, having entered Stanford as a freshman in 1993 and stopped out for four years, the dorm-affiliate program might not be as useful to her as to some of the younger undergraduate parents.

But overall, she said she was glad that the administration was taking steps to "recognize the nature of being an undergraduate parent."

Newton said, "I'm really impressed with the urgency they [the administration] has put on the issue [and] we're anticipating the actual changes."

Original concerns

One of the paramount concerns for undergraduate parents was inadequate childcare.

"We wanted basically to have better daycare in an affordable fashion," McCloud said. Currently, there is a two-year waiting list to receive daycare at Stanford.

McCloud also explained that undergraduate parents financial aid formulas did not account for the extra cost of having children.

They also hope to build a community of undergraduate parents in EV an a better social and academic support system for undergraduate parents.

ASSU President Seth Newton, a senior, said, "I think that they [undergraduate parents] face a lot of difficulties pursuing their education. It's the responsibility of the institution to allow them to pursue their education."

The meeting

The parents first brought up these issues with Newton, who then brought them to the Faculty Senate meeting on Nov. 30. As a direct result of the senate meeting, Etchemendy, Newton, ASSU Vice President Malia Villegas, three undergraduate parents, a member of Stanford Advocates for Children and a member of the Graduate Student Council met to hash out these concerns.

The meeting, McCloud said, was "very promising." Trotzky-Sirr said.

"I think it was one of the first times the provost had heard about this, and he was receptive," she said, adding that "the fact that they're willing to admit that there's a discrepancy in the way they give financial aid to undergraduate parents is a big step."

Etchemendy said, "They [the undergraduate parents] were extremely helpful in suggesting solutions; it was an eye opener."

McCloud said that before the meeting, it was much more difficult to work with the administration. The Work Life Office, which deals with child care for faculty and students, hasn't really been very helpful, she said.

She explained that undergraduate parents had been presenting their concerns for quite awhile now, and had basically run into a bureaucratic wall before meeting with Etchemendy.



Copyright 2000
The Stanford Daily