posted 2011-03-23 13:00:10

Hunter College Given Green Light to Reduce Space for Childcare

Hunter College Given Green Light to Reduce Space for Childcare

Student-parents react to New York Supreme Court decision

Alexandra Niemetz

Contributing Writer

This past March 8, New York State Supreme Court Judge Emily Jane Goodman reluctantly announced that the long-disputed reduction of childcare space at Hunter College is not within the court’s legal power to overturn. Though Goodman dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, she criticized Hunter’s decision to reduce childcare space, calling it both “arbitrary” and “capricious.”

The student-parent led lawsuit against Hunter College kept the administration’s plans at bay for nearly two years, after Hunter College President Jennifer Raab announced in May 2009 the impending closure of Room 209, one of four in the Children’s Learning Center (CLC). With the court’s recent decision, however, the college can move forward with its plans to close the classroom, despite bitter cries of protest from parents who maintain that they would not be able to attend Hunter without childcare services on campus.

Angela Molfetas, a student-mother in charge of Hunter’s campaign against childcare reduction and president of the Hunter Parent Union, worries that the closure of even one of the four CLC classrooms will prevent student-mothers like her from attending college.

Molfetas, a senior majoring in Gender Studies at Hunter, has a four-year-old daughter who has been attending the CLC for two years. “I wouldn’t be able to go without it,” Molfetas affirmed. “I know a lot of mothers in my position,” she said.

Yet, parental say over the fate of the childcare center remains minimal. “We have a Hunter Parent Union, [but] we don’t really have any authority for enrollment or structure of the center,” said Molfetas in a phone interview.

Molfetas noted that although the Hunter administration has not yet allocated Room 209 to its new function, its plans to do so remain in place, maintaining its previous stance that closing the room will maximize space on campus.

“It is evident that the CLC students could fit comfortably into fewer rooms,” read a letter to parents written in July 2009 by Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Eija Ayravainen.

“As you also know, space on campus is scarce. It is the College’s responsibility to maximize the uses of our space to serve the Hunter community, and we are confident that making better use of Room 209 is key to doing so.”

Still, according to Molfetas, the Dean attended a parent social last week and “sat there preaching to new parents about the importance of childcare and how this is a great resource.”

Indeed, student-parents agree.

Osanna Semenko, an economics major and mother of two children stressed that her plans to go to college would have been significantly delayed had there not been space in the CLC. “In my case I would’ve had to wait three years to go to college,” she stressed. Semenko has been at Hunter since 2008.

“I totally rely on it,” said Bailey Flynn, a mother of a six-year-old son who frequents CLC. She is majoring in psychology with hopes of getting into the nursing program. This is her second semester at Hunter.

A Hunter College alumnus, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, wrote in response to a Hunter-L Listserv posting made by this reporter, sympathizes with student-parents on campus.

“Many times I would see the children walking across the footbridges. The footbridges were as vibrant and exciting and stimulating and absorbing then as they are today, and yet there was not one single Hunter student (or staff) that did not give a big, huge smile and engage 'the babies' as they walked past. It is difficult to understand how she [President Raab] can do this,” the source said.

Molfetas mentioned that in addition to the reduction of childcare space, a rumor of the potential shutting down of after school programs has been circulating. This could be a new direction for Hunter, she noted. “These are all clues to the direction that Hunter's taking, going against the mission of CUNY,” Molfetas asserted.