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Creating an Equitable Campus

for Student Parents and Caretakers

A study room at the Tanimura & Antle Family Memorial Library at California State University, Monterey Bay will soon undergo a transformation: Kid-friendly floor mats and children’s toys, kid-sized tables and chairs and bright decor, and lots of educational materials will turn it into a family-friendly space, thanks to a fundraising campaign initiated by the library to create an inclusive, welcoming space for student parents and caregivers.

For now, it’s the only such space on the CSUMB campus, but the Family Friendly @ CSUMB club is working to increase awareness and resources to meet the needs of students who care for their own children, younger siblings, or other family members.

One of the biggest challenges is knowing exactly how many students are parents or caregivers, says librarian and faculty advisor Sarah Dahlen. As of now, there’s no clear data as to how many CSUMB students are also parents or caregivers, she says, although informal surveys suggest that as many as a quarter of CSUMB students falls into one of those categories.

“The problem is that student parents are a little bit invisible on campus. They don’t bring their kids to campus all the time, so it’s really hard for them to find each other, and of course, they are incredibly busy people,” says Dahlen. “If you don’t see them, you don’t know what their needs are.”

The university itself is making changes: Since 2019, when Family Friendly@CSUMB advocacy in 2019 led to the creation of a dedicated lactation room in the library, CSUMB has added several diaper-changing stations throughout the campus and two additional dedicated rooms where mothers can nurse or pump breast milk. Prior to the opening of the library lactation room, students and employees had to request a key and permission to use rooms on campus that were not designed for or dedicated to this purpose.

The club, formed in 2018, is working to connect parents and caregivers with existing resources and create social support networks and a more inclusive campus addressing their unique challenges.
“The study room will allow us to work on our classwork and be an area where our children will learn the importance of education, as we are our children’s role models, and they are our future,” says Bianca Estrada, founding member of Family Friendly @ CSUMB and now a graduate student pursuing a masters in social work.

The most recent campaign, which raised close to  $5,000 and ended Tuesday, was inspired by family rooms at other universities including Brigham Young University, University of Arizona, and the University of California, San Diego.

“It’s so inspirational hearing the students talk about their experiences and motivation for advocating for spaces like this,” says Dahlen. “They want to be able to study and to set an example for their children, for them to be able to see them completing their degrees.”