On behalf of a reader, today I am seeking information about universities that have banned children from campus buildings 'for safety reasons'. Of course I am not talking about bringing children into labs with hazardous materials or delicate equipment, and I am not talking about whether someone should bring their ill child to campus. The issue is whether all children can and should be categorically banned from offices and classrooms.
If your campus has a such a policy, does it have a negative effect on you or someone you know (such as a colleague or student)? Or do you agree that the ban makes sense, for the safety of the children and/or university personnel who might contract an illness (swine flu!) from contact with child-vectors in campus buildings?
In terms of the health issue, I am not an expert but I think I am more likely to get swine flu from contact with my university students and other campus regulars than from contact with a younger child who happens to be in my department building, even if that child is brought to a class or meeting. As long as labs and other sites with hazardous materials have restricted access, there seems to be no good reason to exclude all children for their own safety.
Do universities fear what might happen if a child is injured in a campus building; for example, if a child slips on a recently waxed floor? I doubt it; some universities aren't even particularly concerned when professors slip on a recently waxed floor.
Bringing a child to a class or a talk might not be a good idea, particularly if the child is disruptive, but I would rather deal with these situations on a case by case basis than have a university ban children from campus buildings.
There have been times when my husband and/or I had to bring our daughter to campus; e.g. on days when she had no school and we couldn't arrange childcare or our schedules so that one of us could stay home. We brought her to talks (during which she sat quietly in the back coloring or reading) and classes (during which she sat quietly in the back, amazed by all the talking/texting students around her). Bringing out daughter to campus allowed us to do our jobs.
Perhaps these bans are not rigorously enforced (has anyone by any chance seen a few dogs in campus buildings in which no dogs are allowed?) but provide the university with some security if there is a problem. Even so, students, postdocs, staff, and untenured faculty would be reluctant to violate such a ban, fearing repercussions.
If someone wanted to protest such a ban as ineffective as a safety measure and harmful to university personnel and students who on occasion need to bring a child into a campus building, what is the best strategy? Presumably the people taking the lead should be tenured full professors (men and women), though it would be good if administrators knew the full range of the problem for students and those with more precarious employment situations.
If administrators realized the many ways in which the business of the university (teaching/learning, research, service/outreach) was being negatively affected by such a ban, perhaps someone with authority would take a calm look at the issue and come up with a sensible policy.
6 months ago