The American Association of University Professors – Purdue (West Lafayette) chapter applauds Purdue’s decision to keep the Patty Jischke Early Care and Education Center (PJC) open “indefinitely” during the pandemic. The chapter now calls for Purdue to honor its commitment made in December 2019 to also increasing affordable, high-quality, accessible childcare on campus.
In June 2019, parents at the Patty Jischke Center were informed that PJC was going to close one year later, in order to be demolished and replaced by construction associated with the Discovery Park District, funded by the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF). PRF was going to build a new childcare center that would likely be able to provide care for most PJC children, but without the same quality assurances that Purdue HR provided for the current center. Parents organized and Purdue HR rallied to push for the replacement childcare center to remain Purdue-affiliated. In December 2019, the Purdue Board of Trustees voted to commit $6.9M in the construction of a new childcare center to replace the Patty Jischke Center, and increasing its number of available spots by 70% from 88 to 150 spots.
The pandemic delayed construction of the new center, although PRF construction clearly continues apace. Purdue made the right decision in putting off the demolition of PJC, allowing the children in care there to continue to attend, the teachers employed there to keep their jobs, and parents to focus on their jobs instead of on hunting for safe high quality care for their children in a pandemic.
However, Purdue said in its press release that “plans for determining need and capacity for the future of child care for the Purdue community will be revisited once the pandemic is past and there can be more certainty in making those decisions.” This, and the repeated lack of mention of the new center committed to by the Board of Trustees in December 2019, suggests that the new center may not be built. In addition, HR representatives told parents that “all capital projects at the university have been and continue to be paused.” The press release issued Feb 3, 2021 announcing the initial intent to proceed with PJC’s demolition suggested that yet another market study would be done to assess whether there continued to be need for child care in our area.
It is typical of stonewalling institutions to call for additional data. But early childhood education experts at Purdue and in the state have done studies and issued reports [refs 1, 2, 3] describing Indiana as a childcare “desert” and noting that availability for care for children under 5 in Tippecanoe County, including specifically West Lafayette, is “low.” The hundreds of parents waiting on Purdue’s centralized waitlists for spots at Purdue’s child care centers attest to the import of increasing affordable, high quality, and accessible care to Purdue employees and students. There is no need for another market survey.
Campus child care is a benefit, which is a form of compensation for employees – it is not simply a capital campaign project, nor a perk of employment. Child care is an essential service for employees to be able to do their jobs.The Purdue Senate 4th Wave Survey noted that 38% of respondents of Purdue employees report caregiving responsibilities, and 70% report being overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities in the pandemic. The teachers who care for young children on campus and elsewhere are highly skilled, overwhelmingly feminized, and routinely underpaid; teachers at the PJC and the other Kindercare campus daycare should receive the same wages and benefits as teachers employed at the 93-year old Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School run by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue.
AAUP-Purdue recognizes that having high quality, accessible campus childcare is necessary to recruit and retain excellent and diverse staff, graduate students, and faculty, our constituents. Access to affordable childcare is an equity and social justice issue. We ask that Purdue stop stonewalling, and return to its commitment of increasing affordable, high-quality, accessible child care on campus for students, staff, and faculty.
Chapter statement, passed by at least 50% of the chapter members
February 15, 2021