Today there was a letter to the editor in the Observer that was actually worth reading. Bravo, Mr. Klee! And it touched on a subject near and dear to my heart - quality of life for married grad students and grad students with families at ND. Read on, my friends: Family Life at Notre Dame
I don't know Mr. Klee personally, but we are most certainly on the same wavelength. He touches on a lot of the points I made in a previous post about women in academic life - the policy which allows grad student mothers a bare six weeks at home with their newborns and the lack of child care on campus for children younger than two years of age. He also brings out a point I had missed - the cost of grad student insurance for spouses. I had originally planned to put my husband on my insurance when he lost his job, but thanks to COBRA he can keep his US Steel insurance for a fraction of what it would have cost me to buy it from ND. Our stipends are small enough already, and insurance payments are a significant expense.
To my great surprise, Mr. Klee points out the family policies that benefit grad students at schools like Yale, Cornell, and the UC system school. I won't repeat what he wrote in his letter, but the plans they have sound great and frankly, put ND to shame. When I came to ND I didn't really see the maternity policies here as a problem, because I assumed the secular schools would be even worse. I just assumed that it was like this everywhere because grad students are fairly low on the academic food chain. Now that I see it isn't, I feel just a little bit angry. I trusted that a Catholic school would recognize the primacy of the family - and clearly, that isn't the case.
On a more personal note, this letter hit a real chord with me because of my husband's continuing unemployment and the financial difficulties resulting from that. He is still unable to find a job in the area because of the dismal economy, and is now starting to look out-of-state. I don't want to quit grad school - I worked really hard to get here and I love what I'm doing - but part of me wonders what the point would be in continuing. If he moves and I stay here to finish school, I'd only be starting all over again, looking for a postdoc in one specific area of the country with my very specific skill set. The never-ending two body problem would just continue to plague me. And I know couples do it, but living apart as a married couple would be very painful to me and, I feel, contradictory to the spirit of Christian married life. I want to start our family soon and continuing on in academic life would just throw up more hurdles in our way. I wonder why I should go on in a profession that is so very unwelcoming of women who actually want to be wives and mothers.
In any case, it makes me very happy to see a fellow grad student standing up for us. It's easy to feel neglected here, with ND being so heavily undergrad-centered. If ND really wants to become prominent in research, they need to be able to attract graduate students with family-friendly policies. Unfortunately Mr. Klee's letter will probably go unnoticed in the brouhaha over an offensive cartoon published in the Observer (which I apparently missed) but I say to him again, bravo, sir!