I decided to conduct an experiment.
I enlisted the help of some guys I knew and asked them to do me a small favor: Every time they went into a men’s restrooms on campus, look for a baby-changing station. I asked them to keep track of which ones had them and which ones did not. Of the restrooms they frequently go to, only a select few had baby-changing stations.
The Student Activity Center and Patton Hall are some of the only buildings that have men’s bathrooms with baby-changing stations. High-traffic buildings such as the University Teaching Center and College of Business Administration lack these stations for men, and there is only one station in a men’s restroom in the PCL, despite the library covering six floors. Even of the 54 gender inclusive restrooms around campus, only two have changing stations.
This is not comprehensive, but it reveals that a vital childcare resource is widely inaccessible to the fathers, husbands and men of our campus. UT needs to implement baby-changing stations in more of the men’s bathrooms across campus. Fathers should not have to walk across campus to access a changing table for their child.
“My brother has had to squat on the floor and change a diaper,” said Chantal Ramirez, a developmental psychology graduate student and mother-to-be. “I’ve seen pictures of dads putting a blanket on the floor to change their baby’s diaper. It’s quite difficult and unsanitary.”
UT has been making strides towards inclusivity for some time now. Childcare resources now range from lactation stations for breastfeeding mothers and available childcare options through the Child Development Center and Family Life Services.
With these resources available, it’s odd that UT lacks baby-changing stations in most of the men’s bathrooms. If these stations are only in the women’s bathrooms, it promotes gender inequality. Single dads and stay-at-home dads are not given the same resources as their female counterparts.
“You also have to consider families with two fathers and about how difficult it would be for them,” Ramirez said.
Installing changing stations in men’s bathrooms is also important because of the relationship growth that comes from caring for your child one-on-one, Ramirez added.
“It’s so beneficial to both the parent and child’s development to have hands-on childcare from the skin-to-skin contact in diaper changing,” Ramirez said. Fathers should not miss out on this critical parenting stage because the University is not supplying substantial resources for males.
Implementing baby-changing stations could be feasible. Koala Kare, a company considered to be the “king” of baby-changing stations, has stations that retail for as low as $205.98. With the amount of recent on-campus renovations, it should be reasonable to implement these baby stations in the men’s bathrooms. But if purchasing Koala Kare or other brand stations is too expensive for the University, creating cheap makeshift stations until funding comes through would be better than not having any at all.
UT needs to prioritize the placement of more baby changing stations in men’s restrooms around campus. Executing child care resources such as changing stations is absolutely necessary. Student parents already struggle to care for their children while pursuing an education. Not having access to something as simple, yet vital, as a baby station is not acceptable.
Mata is a psychology sophomore from Houston.