Graduate Family Support Working Group interim report released
Developments include a new mailing list and partnering with Cambridge Public Schools to provide resources to student-parents
Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz released the Graduate Family Support Working Group’s interim report, which addresses issues voiced by graduate student families, in an Oct. 29 email to the graduate student body. The report features four main recommendations: centralizing communication and outreach, collecting information about students with children, providing family-friendly spaces around campus, and identifying new ways to financially support students with children.
The report found that of all Ivy+ schools — the group comprised of all Ivy League schools, MIT, Stanford, and UChicago — MIT is the only one without a centralized resource for graduate students with children. A new website, the MIT Guide for Students with Children, now acts as this resource.
Additionally, as a result of the working group’s discoveries, a new mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been launched, a summer orientation webinar has been developed, an Atlas for New Grads family tile is being developed, and a WhatsApp group specially made for graduate families has been created.
According to the report, MIT has now opened Westgate events to both on and off-campus families in response to off-campus student-parents finding difficulty in participating in campus events. Furthermore, Associate Dean Naomi Carton will now be working with a family liaison for Cambridge Public Schools to provide more resources and information for student-parents.
The working group, formed in November 2018, consists of graduate students, faculty, and staff who have been working throughout the year to catalog, benchmark, and collect input on the status of graduate student families at MIT.
Peter Su G, GSC president and a member of the working group, said in an interview with The Tech that his next hope is to “administratively gather data on families,” as MIT does not have a list of graduate students with families. Once that list exists, Su said, “You can start doing targeted programming, give directly to the graduate families.”
According to the report, 27 percent of graduate students with children who responded to a 2019 survey reported it was “very difficult” to locate appropriate childcare. The report also singled out MIT as the only Ivy+ school without some form a family grant, though it acknowledged MIT does have a “significant and generous subsidy” for family medical insurance compared to its Ivy+ peers.
Su described the financial issue as a two-fold. One is that graduate students “just don’t receive as much money as others because of how their program works.” The other is that a student's expenses may overwhelm their income. Even if this income is decent for a typical graduate student, others, such as graduate student families, may struggle supporting their family financially.
“We’re trying to really chip away at the root cause of a lot of issues for graduate students. The GSC will continue to be involved,” Su said.
Su said that four graduate students were assigned to the working group by Waitz to provide feedback and perspective and to conduct some of the ongoing research, such as exploration, benchmarking, and discussing possible solutions.
“This is definitely going to be a multiyear process,” Su said. He said it is “up to administration to continue engaging with this and also the students to remain engaged,” but that “this report is definitely a solid first step. It’s identifying the baseline problems, giving really simple solutions and a relatively clear path forward on the financial part.”