I was a grad student at Brigham Young University, which has a very high marriage rate, and a large number of grad students (if not most) were parents.

A couple of different parents brought their newborn child to class for a semester (an undergraduate class once and a graduate class the other time).

Some people felt uncomfortable or distracted by the child. I thought the parents did a great job, and soothed the child whenever it was fussy.

After a few semesters that it happened, teachers started putting 'No babies allowed in the classroom' on the syllabus.

Many of these parents had only one semester left, and had no access to childcare for such a young infant.

How should this have been handled to everyone's satisfaction? If babies were not allowed, how and when should this have been communicated to the parents?

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    $\begingroup$ This appears to be, foremost, a school-wide (or at least departmental...) concern; it should never have been resolved by individual teachers banning babies on syllabi. Ask your department chair for the protocol. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2014 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ If only enrolled students (and faculty) are allowed to attend classes, then this handles the case of babies. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Apr 8, 2014 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the university should strive to improve the support they provide for their graduate students who are parents, so that at a minimum they are able to afford some small amount of childcare necessary to attend classes. Since I would guess this is an issue that disproportionately affects women, any university that aims to increase the number of successful female candidates would probably do well to provide a strong program for supporting graduate students with children... $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2014 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ This is off-topic, and should be asked on Academia.SE. What does this have to do with math education in particular? $\endgroup$
    – Jack M
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Jack the fact that a question is on-topic elsewhere is not in itself an argument for it being off-topic here, but I think in this case you are correct that Academia would be a better place to go. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2014 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


This strikes me as fundamentally a matter of opinion, but for what it is worth, here is mine:

A baby in a classroom is not the same as a baby on an airplane. If a baby on an airplane cries, there is no escape and nothing one can do. If a baby in a classroom cries, the parents can quietly slip out through a door into the hallway and try to soothe the baby there. I think as a practical matter most parents would prefer not to have to bring a baby with them to class, so I would give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do not have better alternatives. If so, it seems to me that the appropriate and humane thing to do would be as supportive and understanding as possible.

Rather than try to ban babies from the classroom or write an explicit policy into the syllabus, it would probably be reasonable to have a private conversation with the students at the beginning of the semester. Let them know that they are welcome to bring their children with them so long as it does not become a distraction to other students, and perhaps suggest that they sit on an aisle seat, not far from an exit, so that they can slip out discretely if and when it is necessary.

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    $\begingroup$ Positive points, on the whole, however: A baby on an airplane is a sign of "prior error", as is a baby in a classroom, though the latter is less severe... but also more avoidable, in principle. The notion of "prior error" is most useful/interesting as it addresses context, that is, ambient situations, e.g., that parents should not find themselves srsly pressed to bring young infants to classes. That childbearing might delay graduate a term or so is entirely reasonable, or not, depending on the larger social structure one wants. If ... $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2014 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ ... all accommodations are to be met, including care for aging parents, disabled spouses, etc. (to which I am fairly sympathetic, in many senses!), the implied contract with the other students should be renegotiated ... massively! (Let's ignore the chronic attempts to minimize learning, etc.) To repeat: indeed this is a question of the implied contract between students and the institution. It would be immoral, or at least unethical, to pretend to change this unilaterally, although the extreme difference of power makes this ... possible. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2014 at 2:09

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