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March 01, 1996 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-01

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10 - The MichiganDaily - March 1, 1996
Family housing becomes a home, community-

Say the words "student housing," and people
will begin to complain about the cost of living in
South Quad, or how difficult it is to find a spot
in a co-op.
Worries about child care and running a house-
hold probably won't come up, unless you're
talking to one of the more than 1,520 residents
of family housing.
Family housing provides residents with spots in
townhouses orapartments. Northwood 1,11 and III
apartments and Northwood IV and V townhouses
on North Campus provide the majority of family
housing. Observatory Lodge Apartments, located
near Mary Markley, is the only family housing
facility located on Central Campus.
"Eligibility (for family housing) in rank order

is: a married couple or a same-sex domestic
partnership couple with one or more dependent
children," said Alan Levy, director of public
affairs and information for University Housing.
"A single parent with dependent children (is
also a high priority)."
Bob Sitar, a sixth-year doctoral student in
physics and a resident of the Northwood V com-
plex, said he is pleased with the University's
facilities. "For the price, it's probably the best
Sitar said. "I
don't thinkI
could afford
to live off-

Sitar said he and his 5-year-old daughter, Brit-
tany, have few complaints about the apartment.
"The apartment is about 30-feet long and 13-feet
wide. It's almost like living in a trailer.
"It kind of has the 'hallway' feeling," Sitar said.
Connie McMahan, a single parent and LSA
senior, said she found more pronounced flaws in
family housing. "I had a really bad experience.
I lived there for 10 months," she said. "I found

it very isolating. Most of the people I found in
my housing unit were two-parent families where
the husband went to school and the mothers
were stay-at-home mothers. I couldn't relate to
them, because I was playing the role of the
husband by going to school."
McMahan said she knows a group of single
women who now live in the same unit. "It's
great, because they can be like, 'Will you watch
my kids?' to one another and they understand

two years ago. In September 1993 the Board of
Regents proposed an amendment to Bylaw 14.06,
the University's policy on non-discrimination.
The proposed amendment added "sexual orien-
tation" to the list of bases on which the Univer-
sity could not discriminate.
The amendment included the stipulation th
"same sex couples will have the same access t
family housing as married couples."
Although the amendment passed at the May
1994 regents' meeting, it was met with strong
opposition from some community members,
including Regent Deane Baker (R-Ann Arbor).
Levy said there are currently five same-sex
couples registered with the Housing office.

each other."
F a m i l y
housing was
the subject
of debate





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unningto class, sttudying at co-
f ehousses and drinking at frater-
nity parties, it is easy to forget that
mingled in with "typical " under-
graduates are students with an
extra responsibility tojuggle
--a child.
Manyofthese "non-
traditional " students
live in Jamilv housing on North Campus.
They spenda majority oftheir timegoing tot
classes, working and raising another hu-
man being. These twofactors mean other
students have a slim chance ofrunning
into students with children while
hanging out at the Michigan Union
or the League.
These studentsface difficulties-at
the Universityinherent to their situ-
ations - having children is difficult
as a student or as a professional.
Despite their seemingly removed exist-
ence, these students are an equally integral
part of the University community. What fol-
lows are three perspectives on lfe as a Uni-
versity undergrad and a single parent.
"You find yourself in a situation and you'
deal with it."
So says Jimie Blair, who will turn 40
years old in March. Blair is the single
parentofa 12-year-old boy, Brittany. Blair
has two children, but only has custody of
Blair politely indulges questions about
his life as a student and a parent, but
when the subject of conversation is Brit-
tany, Blair responds in the same proud
voice of any other parent - traditional
or non-traditional. "I've had him for six
years," Blair says. "He's in the sixth
Blair has spent the majority of
those six years as a student
himself "I started off as a psy-
chology major, but I changed to general stud-
ies. I graduate in May."
Blair says he hopes to move to Seattle and
find ajob in social work and human services.
Blair attributes the majority of his success
to the Single Parents Network, a support
group for single parents. He has been the
president of SPN for three years.
"The Single Parents Network was the rea-
son I came back to school. I had just gradu-
ated from Washtenaw (Community) College.
and I first worked at the School of Dentistry.
.. They persuaded me to go back to school
full time. When they first suggested it, I was
like, 'No way!"'
Blair laughs at this as if it were the most
ridiculous idea ever, and at the time, he says
it was.
"I had a child, and I had never considered
going back full time. I never thought about
sending in letters or applications."
Blair says SPN members encouraged him
and gently pressured him at weekly meetings to
apply to the University. "Finally, to keep from
being embarrassed, I applied. And I got in.
"I wasn't aware what I was getting into
when I did it."
Blair says his day starts at 6:15 or 6:30
a.m., when he wakes Brittany up for school.
"Two days a week I leave without him at
7:30. The other days I leave at 8:30. My day
goes till about 2 or 3 in the morning."
This sounds like any "traditional" student's
day, but the hours that fill it are spent quite
differently. "Brit goes to Tappan Middle
School. He's in a couple of afternoon activi-
ties three days a week. He gets home at 4, and
I'm always almost home at 4.1Iwill always be
home when he gets home.
"I'm not able to enjoy the luxuries that other
students enjoy. I don't have much of a social
life. It's not his fault ... but you make sacrifices.
I don't leave him at home - he's just 12."
Hiring a sitter or putting Brittany in after-
hours childcare is not an option for Blair, so
he takes Brittany with him to his evening
The University does not offer any no-cost
childcare options for students. Medical stu-

dents may use University Hospitals childcare
facilities. Other students may choose to en-
roll their children in any of several childcare
facilities on and off campus.


MSA Task Force
aims to provide
free child care 0
Widening its scope to yet another group of constituents,
the Michigan Student Assembly is working to make the
campus more user-friendly to students who are parents.
The MSA Child Care Task Force was approved by assem-
bly vote in December. "Our major two areas of concern are
accessibility and cost (of child care)," said LSA Rep. Fiona
Rose, co-founder and co-chair of the task force.
Rose, a sophomore, said a lack of adequate low-cs
child care is problematic. "The Washtenaw County
average cost for toddler child care is $10,000 a year.
Most students spend $8,000 to $9,000 a year per
child," Rose said. "We all know well the cost of a
Michigan education. After the cost of books and rent
and tuition, there's not an extra $16,000 lying around.
What our task force has to do is come up with
(effective) methods of caring for children."
The task force, as Rose and her co-chair, Susan
Galladay, have planned it, requires a $37,000 budget.
Extra funds would come from a proposed extra doll*
per student per term in student fees.
The proposal must first be passed by MSA before it
s presented to the student body in the form of a ballot
question for the upcoming elections, to be held March
MSA members passed the ballot question at Tuesday
night's meeting. "If we can pay for (University Health
Service) and (Ann Arbor Tenants Union) ... we can pay for
child care," Rose said before the vote. "It kind of shows
where our priorities are."
Several members voiced opposition to the ballot questi
"it fails to solve the problem," said Engineering Rep. Davr
Burden, a sophomore.
Burden said among his concerns were whether the
number of students benefited by the program were enough
to warrant a fee increase. "You can debate the need, but
you can't debate that we shouldn't be funneling student
money," he said.
Rose said she understands initial skepticism of the pro-
gram, but feels the need warrants the fee. "At the University
) of Wisconsin, only 1 percent of the student body has chil-
dren, and there is a $3.50 per student perterm charge forcho
care," she said. "Out of the Big Ten schools, four already do
this. We do need to get with the program."
If the students approve the ballot question in the March
election, it will be referred to the University Board of
"Theregents, in particular, are not impressed with this,"
Rose said, adding that the prevailing attitude on the board
seems to be one of, "Ifyou can't come here because you have
a child, choose another school."
Regent Rebecca McGowan (D-Ann Arbor) said she has
not heard of the task force, but is familiar with other r -
sources for students with children. "There's a lot of ongoi
concern, etc., etc., independent of this MSA task force that I
have not been privy to."
The University does not especially hinder or help stu-
dents with children, McGowan said. "I'm afraid that
living that life at the University probably mirrors the
difficulty of living that life anywhere in the United States
today," she said.
"I think the task force is terrific," said Regent Andrea
Fischer Newman (R-Ann Arbor). "Anybody who has chil-
dren, at the University or anywhere else, can use a lit


? enh

I .I'I. 0

- Jimie Blair (above left) speaking about his son, Brittany (above right).

tion is not an easy climb at all."
Cra McMahan
Being a parent and a full-time student is
harder than Connie McMahan anticipated.
"I had expected to find more of a support
system," says McMahan, an LSA senior and
mother of 8-year-old Joshua.
McMahan transferred to the University from
a community college in Flint. "I knew no one
from this area, so it was difficult at first."
While other students are studying at night,

I've actually had classes where the professor
would have been one ofmy son's classmate's
parents -I specifically chose not to (take the
classes), because I'm seen as an equal as a
parent in my son's classroom. ... There've
been two classes like that that I've missed so
Faculty have been supportive ofMcMahan,
but she says she knows that is not always the
"I've been pleasantly surprised with the
professors and TAs that I've had," she says.

off," McMahan continues. "I
get your Game Boy ready,
going to class with me."'

tell him, 'Better
because you're

Lisa Marie seems baffled about why any-
one would be interested in her life. "My
typical day is just, you know, getting up and
getting my daughter up and then I go to work
- you know, the routine. It's nothing very
Marie is a senior in psychology and social

Education of Women) and my employer is
really flexible and understands," she says.
"My classes, I think because they're LSA,
have been pretty flexible too, as far as home-
work and everything."
Marie is quick to note that her situation'a
not unique. "It's difficult for everyone. For
full-time employees with children, there's a
difficulty there, too. It differs for students,
obviously, but it's still difficult to find the
balance between schoolwork and child care
and housework."

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