UMass Lowell has several resources for student parents on campus. There are two Title IX Coordinators that help student parents understand their rights as parents through the ADA, there are “Mothers Rooms” scattered across each campus where mothers can breastfeed and the UML Parents’ club, where parents can unite and discuss future projects and events.
UMass Lowell has resources to help with every step of the process of becoming a parent and parenting, according to administrators.
“Pregnancy is covered under Title IX and the ADA as a temporary disability. They offer lots of protection,” said Annie Ciaraldi, the dean of students compliance and violence prevention and also one of the Title IX coordinators at UML.
“One of us will meet with a student that is pregnant or who is parenting. We then figure out what kinds of things they need and then refer out to the appropriate resources,” she said.
“For example, if you’re at Coburn Hall, getting to the top floor is difficult, it can be debilitating. So can getting around to campus at certain times for certain things.”
Ciaraldi referred to the ADA laws supporting pregnant and parenting students, which indicates that leniency from professors is expected. Any absences related to pregnancy or childbirth must be excused, because according to the ADA, it is a medical necessity.
“We work with every student individually to see what they need. This might mean moving a class if it’s early enough in the semester to do that,” she said. “Sometimes it honestly gets to the point where the student can’t attend class, so we look to get incompletes, so they can complete them once the baby is born. This way you don’t have the burden of classes at that point.”
UML also has “Mothers Rooms” where mothers can go in privacy and breastfeed their babies. There are locations on each campus and many of them have a door with a lock, rocking chairs and an outlet so the mother can comfortably feed her child.
“We do not have any day care at UMass Lowell for faculty staff or students,” said English Professor Jenna Vinson, who works on scholarship about gender. Professor Vinson said that there are still issues facing parents on campus, and that parents have to fight for their own accommodations.
“If there are certain classes and a time of day where you can’t get people in your network to help with watching your baby, then you can bring that up to your professors and see if they would be open to you bringing the baby to class,” she said. “While UML doesn’t offer drop in daycare, it certainly could be on the agenda. We need student parents’ perspectives, inputs and voices so that it’s known that it’s a need.”
Diana Santana, a current graduate assistant for UML’s Multicultural Affairs, started the UML Parents Club two years ago and has two children of her own and recently graduated.
“I made the club because I found at UMass Lowell there was no clubs I could attend within the time frames I wanted, so it was very hard for me. I had to go check on my children, or get them from the school bus, or daycare,” she said.
“I explained the idea to my professor Susan Thompson. She told me to look into it more, so I went to Student Affairs and receive feedback and advice on how to pursue and go about that. It is the second year of the club, but we still consider ourselves new because the population is not as big as we wish. We have a good online presence but still people feel like it’s too much if they go to an event,” Santana said.
The whole idea of student parents isn’t advertised much at school, so Santana has found it difficult to gather parents who have the time to plan events, and even do fun things with the children.
“I knew how it important it was to get involved and I needed something. It was good for me to find more people and find out if they had children or not. I started spreading the word,” Santana said.