In considering how to best serve the families in our community, the committee has outlined three spheres for growth: improvements in family-friendly policies; adjustments to our physical plant; and enhancements to our campus culture. In approaching these three spheres, the committee has also been mindful of the different populations that a successful program must serve: our undergraduate and graduate students; faculty and staff; and our wider community.
All of the Guadalupe Project’s action items build on the resources, support, and accommodations already available to students, staff, and faculty at Catholic University. Today, President Kilpatrick and the Guadalupe Project committee are happy to share the following deliverables that have resulted from the committee’s work and the contributions of many other members of the Catholic University student body, staff, and faculty. Our hope is that this suite of action items, taken together, will measurably improve the quality of life and peace of mind of the mothers and fathers in our community, and by extension, of their children as well.
- Staff Paid Parental Leave: Employment policies should make it easier for employees to welcome children and to prioritize family obligations — especially at a Catholic institution. The Guadalupe Project is delighted to announce a number of changes that expand and improve existing University family leave policies for non-faculty staff, including:
- Extend the maximum period of paid parental leave for eligible employees from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
- Remove the waiting period for eligibility for paid parental leave. Full-time staff will now be eligible for paid parental leave immediately upon hire, with no waiting period.
- Allow parents who are both employed as staff by the University to use the maximum amount of individual paid parental leave available under the policy.
- These changes will be effective as of December 1, 2022.
- Faculty Paid Parental Leave: The University provides 8 weeks of paid parental leave to eligible faculty members in which the faculty member is relieved of all obligations to the University. He or she has no teaching obligations for the entirety of the semester during which paid parental leave is taken; research and service obligations will apply before and after the eight weeks of leave. Today, Provost Aaron Dominguez is sending a letter to faculty and academic leadership announcing that he is initiating the process to extend faculty parental leave to 12 weeks and reinforcing the University’s firm commitment to providing this benefit to faculty members, uniformly and fairly in accordance with the Faculty Handbook.
- Supporting Female Faculty Members with Children: The Guadalupe Project received input outlining various challenges that women with children can face in advancing in tenure-track faculty positions. The Office of the Provost has committed to convening a working group to better study these challenges and consider innovative ways to support women faculty with children.
- Classroom Accommodations for Pregnant Instructors: The committee received input that pregnant instructors would benefit from the ability to request an accessible classroom. The University currently provides classroom accommodations for instructors who find walking long distances or up stairways to reach their assigned classrooms to be challenging during their pregnancy. Instructors who desire a classroom accommodation should discuss the requested accommodation with the Office of Human Resources. Once the request is received, Human Resources will notify the Office of Enrollment Services, which will work to find an available classroom that meets the pregnant instructor’s specific needs.
- Child Care Benefits: Input received from the campus community has made it clear that assistance with child care remains one of the top concerns of faculty and staff members with children. To better understand the specific needs of the community and to aid the University in crafting policies responsive to those needs, the Office of Human Resources has committed to conducting a University-wide survey of child-care priorities this fall, which will inform further steps to support the community’s child-care needs.
Adjustments to Physical Plant:
- Expectant Mother Parking: Pregnancy can be tiring, and it often brings with it some limitations on the expectant mother’s physical capabilities. Navigating our expansive campus may at times present a challenge to some expectant mothers. To help ease the burden of walking long distances to her workplace or classroom, the University has designated four parking spaces reserved for the exclusive use of expectant mothers who hold University parking permits. These reserved spaces are clearly indicated with new signage and located in the Shahan/McGivney, McMahon, and O’Boyle parking lots, and on Divinity Way west of Caldwell.
- Diaper Changing Stations: Safe, clean diaper changing stations provide a convenient place for parents to care for their children, and their availability sends a message that families are welcome on campus. Demonstrating that hospitality, the University currently provides a total of 12 diaper changing stations in both men’s and women’s rooms in several buildings throughout campus. The Facilities Division has committed to managing the addition of 60 to 80 changing tables, at a rate of 10 to 20 per year, with a particular focus on increasing the number available in men’s restrooms.
- Access to Lactation Space: The University remains committed to respecting the rights and meeting the needs of nursing mothers. There are currently three wellness rooms, available to be used as lactation spaces, throughout campus. They are located in McMahon Hall, Gowan Hall, and Maloney Hall. Additional wellness rooms are planned for the new Conway School of Nursing building and the lower level of the Columbus School of Law. If a nursing mother determines that these locations are not conveniently located or easily accessible for her, and she does not have or does not wish to use her personal office, the University will provide an alternate private location. To request an alternate location, a mother should contact either her supervisor or the Manager of Employee Relations (x6594 or HR-EmployeeRelations@cua.edu) who will work with the Director of Space Management in the Facilities Division to identify suitable space.
- LONG TERM Family-Friendly Campus: Many campus environments include child-friendly spaces on campus, such as playgrounds and child-friendly study spaces or computer lounges. These spaces help to meet the occasional need of parents who work and study at Catholic University to bring their children with them to campus, and demonstrate that the University is, even in its physical composition, a welcoming place for families. The Facilities Division has committed to exploring the possibility of adding child-friendly spaces to our campus, with a playground as the first priority.
Enhanced Campus Culture:
- Pregnancy Resource Informational Materials: The Guadalupe Project received a great deal of input pointing out that information about the resources and support available to pregnant students at Catholic University is difficult to locate and, as a result, students are often unaware of where to turn. In response to this feedback, the Guadalupe Project commissioned the creation of a suite of informational materials to summarize on- and off-campus resources available to pregnant students or other members of the university community, as well as to convey the University’s support. These materials include an updated pregnancy resource booklet, aimed primarily at students and available electronically as well as in hard copy; posters that will hang around campus as a visible sign of encouragement to pregnant and parenting students; and stickers with a QR code (leading to the e-booklet) affixed to highly visible locations such as bathroom mirrors or doors.
- Website Hub for Pregnancy and Parenting Resources: A major component of the new communications materials will be a new landing page on the University website dedicated to pregnancy and parenting resources. This website, located at parenting.catholic.edu and titled Parenting@Catholic, will serve as the hub for information about all of the University’s policies and resources for pregnant and parenting students, faculty, and staff.
- Baby Items in Cardinal Cupboard: The Cardinal Cupboard, located in the Pryzbyla Center, provides non-perishable food items at no cost to any member of the university community experiencing food insecurity. Through a generous donation from St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth, and Families, the Guadalupe Project has secured a supply of baby items (including diapers, wipes, baby wash, and lotion) that are now available through Cardinal Cupboard for any member of the Catholic University community who needs assistance obtaining essentials for his or her baby. For more information on how to obtain items from the Cupboard, visit https://service.catholic.edu/cardinal-cupboard/index.html.
- Pregnancy Testing: Free, confidential pregnancy tests, already available at Student Health Services, now can be taken home by a student or used in the office. Tests will come with a copy of the pregnancy resource booklet so that every student taking a pregnancy test has ready access to information about available support.
- Mass for Pregnancy and Early Infant Loss: Pregnancy and early infant loss — whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, SIDS, or otherwise — is a deep hurt that grieving parents too often feel they must bear alone. The Office of Campus Ministry, in collaboration with Cardinals for Life, has committed to hosting an annual Mass of Remembrance in honor of the lost little ones loved by members of the University community. All who have been touched by pregnancy loss or early infant death are invited to gather and commend their children to the Lord. The first annual Mass will be held in November. Campus Ministry will also create a “Book of Little Ones” in which the names of deceased babies will be inscribed and remembered monthly at Mass.
- Mothers’ and Fathers’ Groups: For many moms and dads, sharing milestones, joys, and challenges with other parents brings a number of benefits. Being part of a community of parents builds a sense of solidarity and can even be a key resource for practical parenting strategies. The Office of Campus Ministry has committed to working with faculty and staff organizations to develop and support fellowship groups for mothers and fathers on campus, through which parents will have the opportunity to receive formation, encouragement, and support from one another and mentors in the community.
- Welcome Swag for Baby Cardinals!: Welcoming a new baby into the world is cause for celebration. The University looks forward to celebrating newborn and newly-adopted children in faculty and staff families with a welcome basket to include infant spirit wear, spiritual resources, and other goodies.
- Cardinals for Life Babysitting Program: As discussed above, it is clear that parents in the University community feel a pressing need for accessible, affordable, quality child care. While the Office of Human Resources explores ways to meet this need, the Guadalupe Project is grateful to a student group, Cardinals for Life, for offering a babysitting program as a service to the community. Cardinals for Life maintains a list of students who have expressed interest in volunteering to provide independent child care for faculty, staff, and student parents. Interested parents may contact Cardinals for Life through The Nest.
- Drop-in Tutoring for Children of Metro Students: The Metropolitan School for Professional Studies serves a nontraditional student population of working adults seeking to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree. Many Metro students are parents and finding reliable and affordable care for their children during their evening classes can become a barrier to finishing their degrees. The University has committed to exploring the provision of drop-in tutoring services for school-aged children of Metro students on campus during Metro class times.
- Support to Pregnant Moms and Children in our Community: St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth, and Families is a local ministry that provides housing and support services to pregnant and parenting mothers at its campus on Eastern Avenue. The historical relationship between Catholic University and St. Ann’s is memorialized in stained glass in the chapel at St. Ann’s, which depicts the University as part of the visual backdrop of the work of the Daughters of Charity caring for mothers and babies in the DC area. Campus Ministry leads regular service projects at St. Ann’s and the Guadalupe Project has sought to augment that relationship by identifying additional concrete ways to aid the mothers and children it serves. Service opportunities for CUA students identified thus far include landscaping and maintenance projects around the St. Ann’s campus, hosting baby showers for residents, providing music at a Christmas reception, and offering “life and legal skills” classes to residents. In turn, St. Ann’s has offered to be a resource for expectant mothers in the Catholic University student community.
- LONG TERM Maternity Clothes Closet: Buying an entirely new wardrobe suitable for pregnancy is expensive, particularly when the expectant mother needs some clothing that is appropriate for professional settings. To aid expectant mothers with these needs, the Guadalupe Project is exploring the creation of a campus maternity clothes closet, through which community members may donate used maternity clothes in good condition and other community members may obtain them free of charge.
Recommendations for Further Study
- Housing: Current University policy encourages pregnant undergraduate students to stay in their residence hall if they desire. Other suitable housing options are available off campus; for example, St. Ann's Center invites applications from Catholic University students who are single mothers with demonstrated financial need to live in one of its program residences.
The Guadalupe Project committee has identified several long-term opportunities to enhance the University’s housing offerings for pregnant and parenting students. Based on input from the community and its study of housing opportunities offered by other universities, the committee recommends that the University study the possibilities for University-owned housing for student mothers, and University-subsidized housing for graduate-student families. The committee also recommends that the University consider whether to seek a partner entity to establish an off-campus maternity home that would serve students from Catholic University and other local universities.
- Scholarships: Mothers who desire to complete their undergraduate education while caring for their babies face particular financial challenges. The committee recommends that the University study the possibility of providing scholarships to mothers pursuing the completion of an undergraduate degree.
- Tucson Program: Shortly after it was convened, the Guadalupe Project committee opened a dialogue with staff of the University’s Tucson Program, seeking to identify ways to support pregnant and parenting students, staff, and faculty in the extended Catholic University community in Tucson as well. It quickly became evident, however, that directly replicating the work of the Guadalupe Project for the Tucson Program is not feasible. In Tucson, Catholic University occupies a small suite of rooms in a local community college, so it is not within the University’s power to make changes to the physical plant there. Many of the other new resources and support put in place by the Guadalupe Project are accessible only to people physically present at our campus here in Washington. The small size of the Tucson Program is another limitation on the resources available there.
Nonetheless, the students and staff of the Tucson Program are part of the Catholic University family. In the spirit of the Guadalupe Project, Tucson staff have connected with the Diocese of Tucson’s efforts to support mothers in need, as well as with other local organizations that serve mothers and their children. The committee recommends that as the Tucson Program continues to grow, the University should study how best to provide resources and support to pregnant and parenting members of the Tucson Program community.
In addition to the items discussed above, the Guadalupe Project and President Kilpatrick are happy to share two overarching commitments that will ensure the continuation of this work.
At the heart of this effort is a desire to walk with – to accompany – pregnant and parenting students and colleagues, whether they are undergraduates discovering an unplanned pregnancy, graduate students starting a family at the same time as they begin their careers as scholars, or faculty and staff who are as committed to their own family lives as they are to their work at Catholic University. In order to accomplish this objective and truly become a place of radical welcome responsive to the needs of its community, the Guadalupe Project must have a permanent presence.
To that end, President Kilpatrick is committing to the creation of a Parenting Resource Coordinator staff position, who would be tasked with ongoing facilitation of established resources and development of new ones in response to the needs of the community. This position is resource-dependent and will be posted as soon as resources permit.