Staff at MSU recognizes the lack of lactation spaces and plans to advocate to have more of those around campus.
The Director of the Women’s Center at Minnesota State and a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, Liz Steinborn-Gourley, said lactation spaces must adhere to established university policy.
“We have a lactation policy at the university as being a private space that locks, that has both a comfortable chair as well as the table and electricity. It should have running water very close nearby, and ideally would have some type of refrigeration,” Steinborn-Gourley said. “Minnesota Department of Health has a breastfeeding-friendly workplace guide or certification. And I thought ‘We aren’t even close here.’ None of our lactation spaces on campus offer a refrigerated space, though folks want to store their breast milk in the Women’s Center.”
MSU currently has only two lactation rooms offered for students, staff and faculty. However, a faculty member and a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, Brooke Burk, states that many needs are not yet addressed properly.
“I am both a faculty member and a parent. If I weren’t a faculty member with an office where I could close the door, I don’t know how I would have made it through both years when two (of my children) were young,” said Burk.
The lack of lactation space makes it difficult for those working and studying at the different campus buildings to pump breast milk in between classes.
“We’ve had students who have been performing arts majors and the idea of coming from the performing arts building to the CSU to pump between classes was too much. It just was too difficult to do,” Steinborn-Gourley said. “I’ve heard I had a colleague over in the Trafton Science Building who was offered a janitorial closet as a space to pump because there is electricity and running water. But it’s a storage closet for brooms and mops. It’s not the cleanest or most comfortable space because they were in a shared office environment.”
“You only get 20 minutes so even walking there for some folks can take up a majority of that amount of time. A lot of people are trying to use the space during their lunchtime because there are no other breaks within the day,” Burk said.
According to Steinborn-Gourley, blackout curtains for the MavPods were there for those students in Wiecking Center to pump the milk between their daily tasks and eliminate the problem of getting to limited lactation spaces at CSU.
Burk brought up ideas along with limiting factors that need to be recognized to ease the struggle of parents on campus.
“I think that one is only in the women’s bathroom at CSU. So you would have to be what? I identify as a woman to even access that particular space, which is another limiting factor,” said Burk. “I also think it would be easy to even create something that identified lactation spaces [on map].”
“These spaces should not be a luxury, they shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should be accessible in various places across campus to accommodate people with short breaks between classes or meetings,” added Laura Harrison, Department Chair in Gender and Women’s Study.
Advocacy has not been done yet. Members of the Commission on the Status of Women still collect information. According to Burk and Steinborn-Gourley, there is a barrier to understanding the number of student-parents and faculty members with children on campus.
“I know that students in Gender and Women’s Studies have done some research on the need for space. So we would want to connect with them on that work to make sure that we have a lot of information that makes a strong argument for them for those spaces,” Burk said.
Any students and faculty who wish to advocate can participate and contribute to the process.
“And I think staff and faculty really could take the lead and advocate as well. It would be amazing if there’s a way that we can get more access to students,” said Steinborn-Gourley.
Members of the Commission on the Status of Women believe that this advocacy is very important to bring awareness of the issue on campus.
“Breast milk is kind of a magic elixir for new babies. We want to do the best we can to support that in folks. And so we’re helping raise awareness,” Steinborn-Gourley said.
“We have some work to do in supporting women’s success on our campus. No matter what position folks are in, for them to be successful and bring to light, more of the challenges and the barriers that are unique to that experience is important,” stated Burk.
Header photo: The lack of lactation spaces on campus can be difficult for those needing a space to pump in between classes. Some faculty have used the janitorial closet in Trafton but it’s not comfortable nor clean enough. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
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