We know it has seemed pretty quiet around this website, but that’s because we’ve busy with organizing on campus! This last week saw Purdue announce that it was going to demolish the Patty Jischke Early Child Education Center, with no plan for providing a new center they had committed to in December 2019 for the families to move to. So, during a pandemic, parents were going to need to find alternative care – by June 1! Parents at Purdue know the waitlist for child care at Purdue is months if not years long, and started to despair – how would they find safe, good quality care even if we weren’t in a pandemic?
So we got to work – our chapter president, a parent with a child in Purdue child care herself, worked with other parents, Purdue employees and community members to draft an open letter to President Daniels, Provost Akridge, asking for the preservation of the Patty Jischke Center during the pandemic. We organized over 100 parents and other stakeholders to email their deparment heads, their University Senators, their administrators, and their colleagues. We connected with long-time Purdue child care advocates, who had been working to increase child care options at Purdue since the 1980s. We amassed documentation of peer benchmarking and child care reports produced over decades and passed them to administrators. We caught the attention of the press, talking with reporters at the Purdue Exponent (two stories), the Journal & Courier, WLFI TV, Star City Broadcasting and WBAA (the local NPR affiliate out of Purdue). We provided documentation of the Board of Trustees’ decision in December 2019 to fund a $6.9M replacement center, to be located at the State Farm Building, that would have served 150 children (an expansion from the capacity of 88 children at PJC). Our chapter prepared a statement condemning the decision to demolish PJC and calling for improved child care options. And ultimately, we mobilized over 1,100 signatures on our letter, including department heads, deans and former deans, star researchers, distinguished professors, staff, faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, program directors, alumni, and many many others!
After a lot of hard work, calls, texts, spreadsheets, and a Slack workspace, resulting in this overwhelming community response, we were overjoyed to see Purdue release a press release on Wednesday afternoon, rescinding their decision communicated the previous week, and deciding to preserve the Patty Jischke Center for the foreseeable future. While Purdue has not committed to still build the expanded child care center, current parents don’t have to worry about finding high quality and safe child care in a pandemic in the next 4 months, and teachers at PJC, many with families of their own, don’t have to think about losing their benefits and having to find new jobs in a pandemic.
We were part of a broad coalition of people who worked together on this project. The organizing training that AAUP provided our chapter this summer proved invaluable for moving quickly, massing supporters from all corners of campus, with clear goals and coordination. We are excited that PJC will remain serving families for the foreseeable future. And we are also here to keep pushing for one of our 3 core issues this year: better resources for caregiving on campus. While PJC is saved for now, we are not out of the woods – high quality child care is still hard to come by on this campus. So we’re ready to work with our partners across campus to continue to advocate for Purdue to expand campus child care.