When I was 9 months old I received my acceptance letter to Columbia University. My parents were thrilled. I cried for a few minutes because I was confused, but once I settled down and realized that the news was good I couldn’t help but feel a touch of pride. Ever since I came home from the hospital I’d been dreaming of what I could achieve with an Ivy League education, but after the initial thrill of orientation week I was in for a rude awakening. Columbia has a reputation of being accommodating to alternative lifestyles and students with special needs, but the university gets more credit than it is due.
As a non-traditional student, I came in expecting to face a unique set of challenges, but the reception I received from my peers came as a bit of a shock. Columbia has a real baby awareness problem. It’s hard to believe that in 2015 people don’t understand how condescending it is to constantly be told how cute you are. It’s infantilizing. And I can’t help but to take the constant anti-pregnancy rhetoric personally. Everywhere you go there are free condoms. I get it. You don’t want us babies around. The prejudice gets even more overt. There’s relentless taunting: “You don’t belong here,” “You should have tried Barnard,” “You only got into a frat because you get so many boobs.” I hear it everyday. I try not to let it bother me, but I can’t help it. It’s painful.
Perhaps most appalling is the complete absence of baby services. There are only two bathrooms with changing tables on campus. I don’t think I have to tell you that making it through midterms with diaper rash is hell on Earth. And as a baby I need warm milk to calm me down, but the sideways glances you get when you order it from the baristas at Joe’s is humiliating.
After weeks of wading through the bureaucracy, I finally got the Office of Disability services to give me a stroller, but there are still areas on campus that are completely inaccessible. If you can’t walk, you can’t hang out on Low steps. It makes me feel like an outsider. I do, however, love rolling down the ramps in Lerner. Fun times.
I knew it would be hard when I started teething, but I was wholly unprepared for the lack of understanding I’ve gotten from the administration. To make matters worse I’ve been unable to put together a schedule that doesn’t interrupt my naptime, and I can’t believe I have to say this, but babies get cranky when we don’t have our naps. That coupled with the fact that professors are totally unaccommodating when I burst out in tears for no reason in the middle of a lecture, has made the past few semesters incredibly hard to manage.
There are academic challenges as well, but despite my repeated attempts I haven’t been able to get any assistance. How am I supposed to read Foucault when I don’t even know my ABC’s? Can I really be expected to operate an iClicker with my little baby fingers? Would it be so difficult for the school to get someone to pat me on the back if I need to burp?
The fact of the matter is, Columbia parades itself as the more liberal choice among the Ivies, but until we take a stand to raise baby awareness, calling CU a progressive school is a farce. I hate to say it, but Columbia is too hard for a baby.