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The outside of Irvine hall on Ohio University campus Jan. 26, 2024 in Athens.

Faculty Senate discusses resolution to allow student’s children in class

Ohio University Faculty Senate introduced a revised resolution aimed at supporting students who are caregivers to a minor child. Some members felt the policy could make learning more accessible to students with caregiving needs while others felt allowing minors in classrooms would be a distraction for other students in class.

The resolution, introduced for a first read during Monday’s meeting, recognizes the barrier childcare can have on a student’s education. The resolution states that professors should allow students to bring their children into classes in emergent situations, not regularly.

“Be it resolved that Ohio University acknowledges that access to caregiving is an essential need which must be met in order for some students to persist and be successful in higher education,” the resolution reads.

Greg Obi, regional campus, Chillicothe, senator and associate professor of management, said some regions cannot pay for childcare, and if students have to choose between caring for their child or going to class that is denying students the right to an education. 

The resolution recommends faculty members discuss and make known their course policies on allowing minors to attend class meetings, allowing higher education to be inclusive and a viable option for all.

Although the resolution aims to specify the recommendations of the Faculty Senate regarding the issue, it also does include the faculty’s right to request for removal of the minors if they become a distraction to others.

However, some senators had concerns about how the policy could be interpreted. 

Educational Policies and Student Affairs Committee Chair and Associate Professor of Teacher Education Allyson Hallman-Thrasher introduced the “Resolution to Support Caregiving Students with Statement about Dependents in Class.” Previously the resolution was introduced as a draft with some members having legal concerns.

“The main thing is we’ve decided on the language of ‘should’ which shouldn’t have any legal teeth attached to it,” Thrasher said. “This is just, ‘we strongly suggest that you should do these things.'”

Other faculty members had also previously voiced questions over whether faculty would be legally responsible if something happened to a child that is in their class.

“There is a possibility that a professor or other students could have liability; however, if proper mitigation measures are put in place, this would hopefully be an unlikely situation,” Thrasher said

Sarah Wyatt, faculty senate chair and professor of environmental and plant biology asked Thrasher about what kind of mitigating factors would be used.

“So that’s where we’re thinking about the factors that a faculty member needs to consider before deciding what their class policy is,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher gave examples such as what type of class is physically safe and what permission may look like depending on if a student is allowed to bring a minor they are the caregiver of into a class.

Susan Dowell, faculty senate member and associate professor of nursing at the Zanesville campus, brought up a scenario where a student may request to bring a child to class regularly. Dowell said another professor may agree to allow the student to do this, leaving professors to find support if they may not agree to allow this.

“So that’s one of the situations that came up that sort of brought this policy or this issue up perhaps is this idea of bringing children to class as a solution to childcare, and that’s not what we want this to be,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher said the recommendation the resolution is presenting should only be used in the event of an emergent, occasional situation.

Dowell said the language used in parts of the resolution may be able to be interpreted by students as just a recommendation. Dowell said students may be able to argue that professors have nothing in specific to tell them they are unable to bring their child to class.

“I’m concerned on the rights of all of the classmates in the class with the newborn being in class and the environment of learning,” Dowell said.

Emily Guseman, faculty senate member and *assistant professor with the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, said grace may be effective for supporting and trusting students who need to bring a child to class in emergent circumstances.

“I think it’s important to remember that we’re talking particularly about very young children in the classroom,” Guseman said. “If the infant is making noise and being disruptive, the parent is probably well and truly horrified by that and is probably going to be doing whatever they can to try and calm them down.”

Obi said the faculty senate should recognize the difference between students on the main campus and those who attend regional or online campus classes.

“I get afraid when we make blanket rules, without considering the fact that there are a group of students who are Bobcats, like their peers in the Athens campus, who should not be denied education because of their family situations,” Obi said.

Obi said students in some regions can’t afford child care to make a better living for their families through the route of education.

“If they can’t come to class and engage, I’m afraid we’re failing in our duty as an educational institution,” Obi said. 


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