By Sade Patterson, SFLA correspondent
I was setting up a tabling event for Students for Life at my school, the University of New Mexico, during Welcome Back Week in August when I got a call from the Associated Students of UNM (ASUNM).
Getting a call from ASUNM was surprising in itself, but what came from the other end of the phone was even more surprising to me. Apparently, a couple of ASUNM senators who had been voted in the previous semester had stepped down from their positions, and I was being asked to fill one of those positions. I had toyed with the idea of running for ASUNM in the past, but as a parenting student with several jobs, I couldn’t imagine fitting another role into my schedule.
Despite my reservations, I was compelled to pray about the decision to accept this position, and was led by my convictions to agree to this amazing opportunity.
My main motivation to become a senator at UNM was to be the voice for pregnant and parenting students, and meet the needs of this growing demographic.
To that end, I began work immediately on my first piece of legislation: a resolution to provide diaper-changing stations in all public restrooms on campus.
Currently, there are nearly 4.8 million undergraduate students that are parents of dependent children in this country; many students and even faculty members decide to bring their infants to campus, and I believe they should be able to have a safe and clean place to change their baby’s diaper.
I remember on several occasions, bringing my son, Daniel, to campus as a newborn, infant, and toddler and having to change his diaper on a table because the building my class was in did not have a diaper-changing table.
Mothers often have a difficult time finding diaper-changing stations on campus, but fathers suffer the most in any public area. Fathers seem to be overlooked as a demographic who are students and who bring their children to campus, and we should make every effort to equally accommodate and support them.
After announcing my intention with this resolution, my efforts were embraced and supported by my fellow senators, as well as student organizations the Women’s Resource Center and the Equal Opportunity office. I was able to see the resolution pass through committee and then through full senate without any conflict. In addition, I was grateful to speak on a local TV station about the issue in light of President Obama’s recent bill to provide diaper-changing stations in male restrooms in government buildings.
Despite my resolution passing to provide diaper changing stations in all public restrooms on campus, the University of New Mexico claims they do not have the budget to make this a reality at the current time. My goal is to now send this resolution to the House of Representatives and our Governor’s office in New Mexico in hopes that this initiative will be brought up yet again in state legislation.
This is the first of many resolutions I am working on as an ASUNM senator to support and empower pregnant and parenting students. Future resolutions will include mom-to-be-parking, priority enrollment, parental leave, Title IX protection, child-friendly study zones, scholarships, Bring Your Child to Campus Day, and free daycare during finals.
This is another way to be a pro-life voice on campus and I want to challenge you to join this mission. You don’t need to be a senator at your campus; however, I would encourage you to run for a leadership position if you feel led to.
It is not an impossible task as a student of your campus to support pregnant and parenting students. The best way to further this mission is to table and display with your Pregnant on Campus Initiative resources. It’s a huge source of encouragement to feel that other students are encouraging you as a parenting student.
If you want to go further and create initiatives on your campus through legislation, reach out to your student government with a list of ideas and sit with them as they write out legislation. Go to meetings with your student government and voice your opinion.
Even if you don’t have a position within government on campus, you can still have a voice for pregnant and parenting students who may not feel empowered enough to ask for help.