The College must act now to protect faculty and staff impacted by reduced WCCC hours

Pamela Jakiela

On March 24, the Williams College Children’s Center (WCCC) announced that it would begin closing at 4:15 p.m., citing “ongoing staffing issues.” Faculty and staff with small children now have one less hour per day to do their jobs. This represents more than a 10-percent reduction in childcare hours, and hence a 10-percent reduction in available work hours for the parents who rely on the Center.

The reduction in hours was described as temporary, but the WCCC’s communication to parents made it clear that the Center could not return to its previous schedule until it had filled at least four vacancies, and indicated that it had had to close classrooms in recent months because it has been unable to staff them. This suggests that the staffing challenges facing the WCCC are structural and need urgent attention from the College community.

Working parents at the College were already struggling after three years of pandemic-related childcare disruptions. Faculty and staff take pride in their work, in the educational experience we offer Williams students, and in the strength of the College community. Yet even before the latest reduction in hours, parents were already exhausted by the continual struggle to balance childcare responsibilities with expectations that we be available outside of childcare hours — for committee meetings that end at 5:30 p.m., for College events that are scheduled in the evening and on weekends, and for the more informal, off-hours interactions that enrich the Williams experience for students.

Now parents with young children are being asked to do as much as they did before with 10 percent less childcare. This is simply not possible, and the College must make accommodations that recognize that working parents cannot magically do more with less. Staff with children in the Center should be allowed to leave early and should be given the latitude to eliminate some work responsibilities while the WCCC offers reduced hours. Faculty with children at the WCCC should be excused from committee meetings that run outside childcare hours and should have their service responsibilities reduced. This is particularly critical for junior faculty, since we cannot modify our teaching loads mid-semester, and it is not feasible to make tenure expectations contingent on whether one was impacted by unanticipated reductions in the College’s childcare availability.

As far as I know, the College has not taken any such steps. It is again asking working parents to do the impossible: to meet the same expectations, but with substantially less childcare coverage; to continue giving more than 100 percent for their students and for the College when the College is only willing to offer them 90-percent childcare.

I know from firsthand experience that the WCCC provides exceptional childcare. The staff are loving and professional. It is a facility that everyone at the College should be proud of. But faculty and staff with children at the WCCC cannot do full-time jobs without full-time childcare. The College must act immediately to ensure that the Center can continue to offer faculty and staff high-quality childcare throughout the workday.


Pamela Jakiela is an associate professor of economics.