Some Thoughts on the Great APSA Baby Ban of 2015

5 September 2015, 1254 EDT

I don’t attend the American Political Science  Conference these days (I explained why in this post last year). But many of my colleagues do, so every year at this time I participate vicariously by watching what is going on in my Facebook feed.

Yesterday, I was surprised by Page Fortna’s status update which read as follows:

A new mom attending APSA was denied entry to the book room today because she had her 9 week old with her. They claimed insurance doesn’t cover babies. WTF APSA? Family-unfriendly much

That’s right: as if it’s not enough already to face childhood as a “polisci brat,” now nine-week-old babies are being banned from the book room by conference staff.

Why am I surprised? Aside from the date of the conference, I have always thought of APSA as one of the more family friendly professional venues I’ve had the pleasure to spend time in. I raised my kids on the conference circuit and have been grateful to APSA and other political science conferences for providing some of the best childcare facilities and benefits imaginable. When my children were small, I never had any problem accessing the entire conference with them in tow if I liked. At APSA and at other conference in the profession, my toddlers followed me to exhibit halls, rode the hotel escalators, and played at my feet at panels. Conference-goers and staff were unfailingly pleasant and accommodating, even welcoming of my children. I have long thought of APSA’s childcare policy as enlightened and supportive of parents.

Well, my surprise turned to SHOCK this morning after APSA issued this statement justifying its behavior:

APSA makes great efforts to be as welcoming and open to all attendees as possible. Conventions of our size require event insurance to secure contracts and use space at any hotels or convention centers. Event insurance does not cover children in an Exhibit Hall due to liability. We are committed to making the Annual Meeting as convenient as we can, but, unfortunately, this is not an area where we have flexibility.

We are pleased to continue offering onsite Child Care and a Mother’s Room for nursing and pumping.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause members or attendees, but, unfortunately, we are not able to allow children into the Exhibit Hall. We invite you to leave your comments here for discussion.

OK,  first of all, if the insurance company is the problem APSA needs a new insurance carrier. Any insurance policy that covers drunken political scientists but not their sober children is not worth its salt.

Secondly, a “Mother’s Room”? Let’s not pretend this is a women’s issue only or that setting aside space for breastfeeding moms will do the trick. Fathers also attend APSA with their children: single fathers, spouses supporting their career wives, dual-career spouses tag-teaming between panels and events, and two-father households. A pumping room is certainly important, but the idea that this is constitutes sufficient child-friendly space, rather than allowing parents of both sexes and their children access to the entire event, is retrograde and non-family-friendly. It rolls back the sense of progress that families were feeling they were making in the profession – progress that was especially helpful to women and whose rollback will especially hurt women, but which affects all professional parents. And based on APSA’s and ISA’s of yore,  it is wholly unnecessary.

If you agree, please click this link and leave comments to the APSA leadership in support of children and families in our profession. Seriously, these kids are being raised by political scientists! They need all the support they can get.