During the pandemic, we’re all just doing our best to keep everything going. Overall, lots of people have been understanding about the impossible position moms are in, parenting while working, teaching their kids or completing lessons themselves.
Which is why it was so infuriating to read about the experience that California college student Marcella Mares had. Like most students, Mares is in remote classes right now. Her professor at Fresno City College told the class he required cameras and microphones on. That wasn’t a big deal for Mares, but she warned her professor that she’d need to turn off her camera occasionally so that she could nurse her 10-month-old daughter.
“His response was “‘that’s not what you should be doing during class. Do that on your own time,” Mares wrote on Instagram.
Mares was shocked to get that type of reception, but she still wanted to make her grade. So, she logged into class half an hour later. That’s when things went from bad to worse.
“The first thing he says to the whole class in our zoom meeting was ‘I got this really weird email from a student stating she needed to do inappropriate things during lecture time. You guys need to understand that you have priorities now and you need to put all those distractions aside or be creative when your child needs you and give your full attention in my class,’” Mares wrote.
That’s right — in front of a whole classroom, the professor referred to breastfeeding as “weird” and “inappropriate.” Those types of comments were much more distracting to Mares during class than nursing her baby ever was.
“I was so hurt that an actual human said these things about me & my breastfed baby in public to other students,” she wrote.
At first, Mares was embarrassed, but then she realized that she had done nothing wrong and that the professor was discriminating against her and other parents.
“I was humiliated. Then I realized, he should be humiliated,” Mares wrote. “Breastfeeding mamas & any mama that is trying to juggle school, work, & a child should be praised not put down & humiliated.”
So, Mares decided to take a stand. She reached out to her school’s Title IX coordinator, Lorraine Smith, who handles any discrimination based on sex. Smith confirmed that Mares was correct, and the professor was wrong, according to CNN.
“You have the right to breastfeed your baby at any given time during class, which includes doing group worksheet, listening to the lecture, and taking the quiz or exam. You may turn off your camera at any given time as needed,” Smith wrote.
The school doubled down, reminding the professor that all students have the right to breastfeed their children, whether class is remote or in person.
“California law requires that schools accommodate students for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth including lactation,” said Kathy Bonilla, public information officer for the school. “The accommodation includes providing the time away from class to breastfeed without academic penalty.”
Luckily, most other professors have been supportive, Mares told CNN.
While it’s infuriating to hear about a mom being shamed for feeding her baby, it’s great to see an institution stand up for mothers. The professor even needed to reach out to Mares, according to CNN, although she later dropped the class.
To end on a positive note, let’s take a minute to acknowledge the professors who are truly there for their students. There’s Ramata Sissoko Cissé, anatomy and physiology professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, who happily wore her student’s baby so mom was free to take notes during class.
my mom is my role model.
her student couldn’t find a babysitter today & being the true African mother that she is, taught a THREE hour class with the baby on her back & fed him.
I’m so blessed to be raised by a woman who loves the world as much as her own children. pic.twitter.com/6yuynJhuPw
— Annadote 💊 (@AnnaKhadejah) September 20, 2019
Then, there’s Nathan Alexander, a professor of math at Morehouse College, who had no problem strapping on a student’s baby so that dad could pay attention during class.
Student came to class today with his child due to no babysitter or anybody to watch her while he was in class.
My professor NATHAN ALEXANDER said “I’ll hold her so you can take good notes!” #HBCU #morehouse #Respect pic.twitter.com/oogIqetseS
— TheOriginal™ (@Original_Vaughn) March 1, 2019
And, Julie George, a nursing professor at the University of Texas, who held a sick baby while mom took a test.
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That’s how you teach your students to balance career and parenthood. Here’s hoping that Mares has more awesome professors like these, and that her professor from this semester learned an important lesson.
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