Whelan Center’s policy is unfair

On The Record

On The Record

On The Record

MICHAEL GIUSTI

Thanks to Loyola’s on-campus daycare, my commute is twice as long as it should be, and that’s not fair.

I drive deep into Metairie to drop my two-year-old daughter off at her daycare.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to drop Zoe off at the Whelan Center, that adorable, little Loyola-run daycare right by the Freret Street Garage. But we withered away for two years on the Whelan Center’s waiting list, to no avail.

And oh, what a waiting list it is.

The minute my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby, I happily scurried over to the Whelan Center and signed up — that was fall 2006.

My wife and I knew how good the Whelan Center was, and we knew that we needed to get on the list immediately.

Everyone sang Whelan’s praises — they raved about how their teacher-to-student ratios were so low, and they bragged about how much of a nurturing and caring environment they provided. They spoke about how their child, or their grandchild, or the child of their friend just loved going there.

I was elated that my employer ran such a high-quality daycare, right on our campus. But, alas — the waiting list.

At first I was encouraged when they told me that faculty and staff got preferential ranking on the waiting list. I was encouraged when they said spots open up frequently, and that we should get a spot quickly.

But, when my daughter was born and a spot hadn’t opened up in six months, that encouragement dimmed. After we didn’t hear anything by my daughter’s first birthday, we knew we had problems.

Both my wife and I work full-time jobs. And for a year and a half we had to cobble together childcare with a patchwork of shifted work schedules and the charity of over-stressed relatives.

I even brought my little blond-haired beauty to campus with me during some especially tough summer weeks.

But we soon realized that we needed another option, and so we enrolled our daughter in a daycare in Metairie.

It was infuriating to us that we had withered away for two years on a waiting list for something that is touted as a fringe benefit.

Sure, we finally got a call saying there may be a spot — but that was years after we signed up, and months after we already enrolled our daughter into a new school. She had just settled in, and it wouldn’t be fair to her to move her.

It was only later that I came to realize the two central problems with the Whelan Center’s attendance rules.

First, the Whelan Center allows people who aren’t connected with the university to send their children to the daycare, even though there are people within the university who need childcare.

Sure, they say we community members get priority — but that only applies to admitting the child.

And that gets me to the second central problem — once children are accepted in the daycare, they are allowed to stay indefinitely, regardless of whether the child’s parents are still connected with the university.

Let’s say, for example, the parents were recently graduated students. No problem. The child gets to stay in Loyola’s daycare.

Lets say the parents enrolled in a single online class just to get a preferential spot on the waiting list, only to withdraw as soon as the child is enrolled? Again, no problem. The child has a secured spot until kindergarten.

Did the parents get fired from the university? Still not a problem. Once children are in the daycare, they are in for good.

If the Whelan Center wants to be a community daycare — fine.

But there needs to be enough capacity to serve everyone at Loyola first. If there isn’t enough capacity, then we need to build more classes and add more teachers.

But, if there isn’t room for everyone, then I understand that too. But we need to make some hard decisions.

If someone leaves the university, we should at least set a time limit. Sure we shouldn’t kick the child to the curb the next day, but three months would be reasonable.

We need access to childcare, and we shouldn’t have to wait two years to get it.

That’s not fair.

Michael Giusti is a mass communication professor and student media adviser. He can be reached at [email protected]

On The Record is a weekly column open to any Loyola faculty or staff. Those who are interested can e-mail  [email protected]

 

Two children play as naptime looms at the Whelan Child Care Center near Mercy Hall in 2008. The center has a waiting list of children to be accepted. (Maroon file photo)