A second mother’s room has officially opened on campus following requests from faculty and staff for a more accessible and reasonable location for nursing.
The room is located at the Humanities building in room 308. The primary mission of the mother’s rooms is to provide all users on campus, including visitors, with a more comfortable, convenient and enclosed area to express breast milk. Inside, users will find a refrigerator to store and cool milk, a microwave, powerstrips, lockers, bulletin boards for photos and mementos, as well as several seating options and tables. The new mother’s room has a restroom next door, while the first has one located within the space.
“Most people don’t know this, but when you’re stressed or anxious, breast milk doesn’t flow very easily,” said chair of the Women’s Rights and Concerns Committee and new mother Kiersten Greene. “So, not only does the problem of not having a designated space for faculty, staff and students on campus cause an issue of privacy, it can also disrupt a nursing mom’s ability to produce enough milk in a healthy, sanitary and productive way.”
The first mother’s room officially opened on Apr. 21, 2015, costing around $2,000, in room 429 of the Student Union Building (SUB). The facility came about after roughly a month-long renovation process and a decades-long advocacy period for a lactation room on campus. This idea was set into motion by the women’s rights and concerns committee, associate professor of art Anne Galperin and the united university profession, a union which “represents academic and professional staff on campus,” according to Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management John Shupe.
Employers are required by New York State Labor Law section 206-c to “provide reasonable unpaid break time or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time each day to allow an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to three years following childbirth.” They must also make reasonable efforts to provide a location within close proximity to the work area, according to this law’s initial guidelines.
While SUB 429 was the original space made available for nursing mothers, the facility was not placed in a centralized location for everyone, sparking the creation of an additional space.
“To be fair, the one in the Student Union is on the fourth floor because that was the available space that we could find. It’s not anywhere near the academic core of classes,” said Director of Student Activities and Union Services Michael Patterson. “I think the second one was an opportunity to get another location in a high traffic area during the day, where people are taking or teaching courses.”
The second room was prepared for use and renovated within two months, and the cost for this project was about $3,300, not including around 30 hours dedicated to in-house labor, according to Shupe. The office of human resources has around 12 keys that faculty and staff are able to sign out for as long as they’d like, according to Assistant Director of Benefits in Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion Jane Gallucci. Conversely, the HQ desk in the SUB has two keys for use, which students and identified visitors must sign out and return with each use, according to Patterson.
Utilization of either room is available to faculty, staff, students and visitors, who are asked to show identification and sign out a key, in order to gain access to these free, private and secure areas.
The mother’s room in the SUB is expected to be closed temporarily for the 2019-’20 academic year, due to a current planned renovation process for the fourth floor, while the one in Humanities will remain open for use.
“The demand for the space didn’t come from students, it came from staff, and it quietly opened and became an available service for those students who were looking for it,” Patterson said. “We promote it, [and] get literature out there [to] let students know that the service exists, but it’s been relatively quiet.”
Patterson noted that not one student has yet to request use of either mother’s room this semester, and that only a handful of students have requested its service since the first room’s opening.
“Prior to the installation of the room, I heard about SUNY New Paltz community members pumping in their cars, in bathroom stalls and in other random places where they hoped they could find a spot of privacy,” Greene said. “Since the rooms are not convenient to every place on campus, many lactating women still have to be creative, but the existence of these rooms has undeniably shifted the culture of awareness.”