By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Many parents attending the University of Arizona quickly discover that the campus is not always "parent friendly." In order to unite and fight for the rights of UA parents, two mothers decided to do something about it.
When Lisa Elliott (then a psychology student) and anthropology junior Mariannette Pascal met on a playground two years ago, they put their heads together and started Babycats.
"Babycats is a student organization for those of us trying to get through school while being a parent," said Shelly Adrian, who became the organization's president when Elliot graduated in May.
"It's free and open to students who are parents," Adrian said. "Staff at the University of Arizona are also welcome to join our listserv, as we share common interests in childcare issues and family resources."
Adrian, an anthropology graduate student, had no husband or children when she first started at UA. She said she is now married with two children, ages 3 years and two months, "all while working on a PhD."
"Research by the Commission on the Status of Women found that approximately 23 percent of graduate students, over 1,400, at the University of Arizona have children," Adrian said. "We know that undergraduates have kids too because they use the childcare programs provided through UA LifeWorks ... and it was undergraduate parents who started Babycats."
Despite these statistics, the UA is the only Pacific-10 Conference school that does not have daycare facilities, Adrien said.
On a positive note, "last year baby-changing tables were installed in the student union thanks to the efforts of Babycats and the Commission on the Status of Women, " said Adrian.
Many Babycats members - 83 in all - rely on the organization for various reasons.
Julia Ayala, an education and Spanish senior, has been the attending UA since 1998, but said she has "taken a marriage break, a baby break and a break for sick leave," and changed her major three times.
As the mother of an 18-month-old daughter, Ayala also coordinates the Babycats' babysitting list.
"We meet with the family studies students who have volunteered to do babysitting for us for $5 an hour, and I get to know them and get their contact info and I make up an Excel sheet and email it to those who want it," Ayala said.
Ayala said Babycats' biggest concern is that the UA provide childcare.
"The university, instead of childcare, throws a $500 stipend in our face, which ... covers about one month of full time care expenses, instead of giving us the resource that we really need, which all the other schools offer with the exception of the UA," she said. "This is my biggest frustration as a parent (and) student. Money is really an issue when you're going to school and that much more so when you are a parent."
Nyles Bauer, a microbiology and immunology doctoral student, is a divorcee and father of a two-year-old-son. Having completed his master's in engineering at the UA, Bauer said he joined Babycats about three weeks ago after doing an online search.
"As a single parent, I'm hoping to trade some babysitting with others," he said. "The U of A is not helpful at all in supporting single parents with any services that I know of, unless they're well hidden. You would think it would be in the interest of the state to get single parents educated, especially younger ones with limited education, so that they can get out of government programs and join the work force and tax roles."
Diane Soleto, a master of public administration graduate student, is a wife, mother of one-year-old son and co-designer of the Babycats brochure.
Soleto wishes the UA would offer daycare that also addresses the needs of infants, since most daycare facilities charge more to watch infants. However, Soleto is grateful for the UA babysitting list.
Edgar M. Uribe, a hydrology doctorate student, has been attending the UA for two years while balancing life as a husband and father to a four-year-old daughter.
He said he became a Babycats member about one year ago after receiving an email about the organization.
"I thought they would be interested in trying to get the UA to provide more services for children," Uribe said. "It's not exactly like that but I find the emails interesting."
Uribe said he has not met any other Babycats members, but hopes to soon.
"I'm not very active," he said. "I just read the emails sometimes. Other parents helped me through their experiences."
Dorana Lopez, an economics senior, just started attending the UA this summer and has worked as an office specialist in the women's studies department for a little less than a year.
As a wife and mother of a three-year-old son, Lopez said she joined Babycats to meet fellow mothers and learn about events at the UA that her son would enjoy.
"I want to give my son a better life and I want to be successful business women in my future," Lopez said. "I know finishing my education would help me accomplish some or all of my dreams."
For more information about Babycats, visit http://clubs.asua.arizona.edu/~babycats/. Or, to ask questions or send comments, email Shelly Adrian at UAbabycats@hotmail.com.