Opinion guest column

Childcare ­— a gift for the MIT family

Looking for a more progressive allocation of childcare slots

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: An earlier version of this article misspelled one of the author's names. He is Thomas Crouzier, not Thomas Cruzier.

As students and researchers, we often fall into the trap of disproportionately offering critique over praise and expressing misgivings over thanks. Regardless of whether this is some unavoidable part of human nature or a result of admissions selecting for overly critical creative thinkers, we must all make an improved effort to recognize instances of selfless philanthropy, compassionate leadership, and keen foresight and offer high praise where it is due. It was with great excitement and optimism that we read The Tech’s article breaking news of the new daycare facility at 219 Vassar to open in less than a year’s time. Though David Koch’s and Charles and Jennifer Johnson’s building will never host a cure to cancer or solution to the energy crisis, it will deliver in two equally critical ways which the Institute desperately needs right now:

First, this project has the potential to bring unparalleled assistance, balance, and happiness to the MIT community. Just as individual students often forgo sleep and healthy lifestyles to pass classes and advance research so too can the Institute prioritize its noble goals at the expense of its own well-being. We are in awe of and incredibly grateful for the Koch’s and Johnson’s compassionate prioritization of “living well” in an age when many might be more interested in helping to keep the Institute “working well”. Roughly 1,000 graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and research scientists (the total size of the faculty) serve simultaneously as researchers and parents. Many of these families live on a single income, the result of U.S. immigration and visa policy. Though we are often told how fortunate we are to be researchers at a place like MIT, imagine telling this to a family of four, living on $29,000 a year — an amount which is nearly identical to the annual cost of 5-day daycare. The point here is that this daycare facility provides a real, immediate-term solution to the child care shortage facing students, faculty, and staff. With the increasing number of young professionals to enter the city through Kendall Square, the rising cost of childcare, and the unfortunate zero-sum competitive game faculty, staff, and students were forced to play for childcare spots on campus, this project can and should aim to address the simultaneous issues of availability and affordability. This will free the minds and hands of our community so that they may tackle larger goals.

Second, we view this as an opportunity to begin turning the page on an old way of thinking about our MIT community. For too long have we siloed the MIT family into the buckets of undergraduate, graduate, postdoc, staff, and faculty. Though these labels and distinctions have practical usefulness when it comes to conducting research and creating knowledge, they should play no role in determining how we are treated and served as human beings. We view this great and sudden offering of childcare as an opportunity to model how we should view and strive to serve our community — not projected along the hierarchy of academia but instead the smooth distribution of our diverse backgrounds and financial needs. Though many have commented on the impact childcare has on MIT’s ability to attract and retain talent, we would challenge this view as it treats a common family necessity — one that is equally experienced across multiple communities at MIT — as an incentivization tool for the prospective few rather than a genuine community service for the existing whole. It is our hope that the opening of these additional childcare facilities on campus will allow a careful look at further extension of childcare services to other communities at MIT beyond early-faculty, including graduate students, postdocs, and staff.

We are particularly excited by these aforementioned opportunities and the Institute’s, donor’s, and work-life subcommittee’s commitment to the designation of new resources. Graduate student leaders and administrators have already begun conversations about child care, considering both the to-be-determined particulars of this new care center and a broader, more long-term vision for childcare on campus. Moving forward, our collaboration will be guided by the input and desires of our constituencies, which we would summarize as the following:

1. Childcare should be made available to all MIT Community members without regard to position and should be distributed in proportion to demand.

2. As long as the Provost’s office is able to retain a certain number of childcare spots for attracting faculty an equal number of slots should be set aside by the Chancellor’s office for students, faculty, and staff that lack the financial means to otherwise afford the service elsewhere. We must balance the recruitment of the best with the needs of the least fortunate.

3. Pricing schemes should be set more closely to equal-burden rather than flat rate. Those who make more should pay more than those who make less. This could also be implemented via a discount or scholarship system for lower income families.

Brian Spatocco - GSC President

Randi Cabezas - GSC Housing and Community Affairs Chair

Nathaniel Schafheimer - GSC Housing and Community Affairs Chair

Kay Everett - GWAMIT

Thomas Crouzier - VP Postdoc Association

Piro Siuti - President Postdoc Association

Eveline Geiser - Advocacy Chair Postdoc Association

Patrick Tierney - Research Scientist