Campus organizations create website to support student parents

By Stephanie Dilworth, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 9, 2014

The University’s chapters of Students for Life and Students for Choice have found an issue worth coming together to support. In partnership with the Dean of Students Office, the two groups are creating a website set to be released by the end of the semester that will showcase resources for undergraduate student parents.

The idea came about after a campus visit by Sally Winn, vice president of Feminists for Life. The central theme in Winn’s speech was her frustration with the lack of campus resources for student parents.

After the speech, LSA senior Taylor Crookston, Students for Life interim vice president, said he was approached by Students for Choice about working together to improve resources on campus for student parents.

Crookston said the collaboration was intended to better organize the current resources available to students with kids.

“Right now, this collaboration between Students for Life and Students for Choice is trying to just get what resources are available very clear,” Crookston said. “There are more resources than people know about, but there is nowhere for people to really find out about them.”

LSA senior Sophia Kotov, president of Students for Choice, said student parents and pregnant students lack a community at the University.

“It’s really, really hard to have a child on campus especially because you don’t see other people on campus who have children,” Kotov said. “If you don’t know anybody else who is in the situation, you would feel so alone.”

Though a discussion group for parenting students previously existed on campus, apart from a Facebook group, it has since disbanded.

Rachel Naasko directs the Blavin Scholars Program, a division of Student Life that works to promote the success of University students who were formerly in foster care. She is a Critical Incident Coordinator, which supports students in difficult situations, and serves as the Dean of Students Office administrator helping establish the new website.

Naasko emphasized that the website supports both pregnant students and students already caring for children.

“The website will be tailored toward undergraduate student parents, not exclusively students who are pregnant,” she said. “We want to support all students in whatever way they come to campus, whether that be students who come to campus with children to students who have children while they are on campus. We want those resources to be in an accessible way, which is really the issue they brought forward.”

The website is expected to feature a directory of resources. It will likely provide links to housing options for student parents, University lactation rooms, University Health Service options for prenatal care and other community-based resources such as childbirth or Lamaze classes.

Crookston said the groups came together to give students more options at the University.

“I don’t think that students at the University of Michigan have any choice between abortion or carrying the baby to term — and then either giving it up for adoption or raising it themselves because of this institutionalized barrier that you don’t see any pregnant girls on campus or rarely,” Crookston said. “We don’t think there is that genuine choice. It’s either drop out or have an abortion.”

Naasko said the groups were too focused on their common goals to let conflict get in the way.

“They, together, came forward and identified an issue that they had questions about and were looking for more information,” Naasko said. “I think because they had already identified that together, there wasn’t a place for conflict. They had already decided that this was an issue they wanted to create support for together.”

Kotov said this experience reminded her of the groups’ commonalities and how pro-life and pro-choice are not a dichotomy.

“Pro-life and pro-choice aren’t opposites. Not at all,” Kotov said. “We have so many common goals that we just kind of forget about because we are busy with this polemic rhetoric.”

Naasko added that this partnership reflects University students’ desire to support fellow students.

“It is a great example of how Michigan students, who appear to have very different ideas and feelings, can come together to support other Wolverines. I’m glad to hear that their experience has also been fairly smooth. I think the circumstance could have been very different,” Naasko said.

Crookston said the website will be unbiased and will not showcase any pro-life or pro-choice arguments.

“Our goal is to make our University a more inclusive place for pregnant and parenting students, for women who do want to have the choice to carry their pregnancy to term,” Crookston said. “We have really avoided, honestly, abortion as a topic in regards to the website.”

Kotov said it is important for the two groups to remember to learn from each other.

“You can be opposed to someone’s point of view or political beliefs without demonizing a person as a whole,” Kotov said. “For me, that has been very, very important and I would like to keep that going. I don’t want to think of them as sides because they aren’t opposites, but we have a lot to learn from each other. Pro-life and pro-choice also have a lot to learn from people who try to stay out of that ‘dichotomy.’ ”