Hidden away in a corner of the Student Commons is a small, windowless room. At first glance, one would think it is a storage room but it’s not – it’s a room for young mothers to nurse their children.
Young mothers have been fighting more recently for their right to breastfeed in public. Meanwhile, Algonquin started building their Student Commons with this private, small room.
“I think (the idea) is awesome,” said Suzanne Foley-Belanger, a 22-year-old second-year student in the medical office administration program and mother of two kids who are both under four. “I definitely think it’s an awesome idea for those who do not feel as comfortable, but I also think that breastfeeding is completely normal and shouldn’t have to be hidden.”
Despite having received a lot of judgement and strange looks from fellow students whenever breastfeeding at the college, Foley-Belanger has never felt ashamed enough to hide in a private room.
The room has been in the commons since it first opened in 2012, but it is rarely used according to Students’ Association general manager, Jack Doyle.
Doyle did not comment on whether or not women are expected to keep their breastfeeding private, instead saying that there are multiple non-designated spaces on campus.
“Moms are not expected to use this room only,” said Doyle. “There are now numerous spaces on campus where a mom can enjoy a little privacy to breastfeed without having to use that particular room.”
“There are now numerous spaces on campus where a mom can enjoy a little privacy to breastfeed without having to use that particular room.”
The room was suggested in 2010 when college officials came together to create a vision for the new commons.
Doyle claims the idea was initially brought forward by students.
“It was identified that there was very little private space on campus for women to breastfeed their children in private,” he said. “Therefore, it was decided to carve out a small space on campus to help students with young children.”
Doyle claims the decision was supported by both the college and the SA.
However, according to John Dalziel, head of major construction at the college, the idea for the room was brought forward by the SA.
“It should have been called a gender neutral room,” Dalziel said. “It was the SA that labelled it as a nursing room.”
Much of the problem with the room is the conditions.
Having never visited the room before, Foley-Belanger imagined the room to be “a comfortable, warm room with rocking chairs and low lighting.”
In reality, the room barely holds two of the orange commons chairs, a small table and a sink. There are no windows and the floors are hard and concrete, the lighting harsh.
To Foley-Belanger, these conditions are unacceptable.
“That is not good,” she said. “I would not use that room. Ever.”
Dalziel alleges the college never intended to suppress mothers.
“There was never any mention of (keeping it private),” he said. “It was about having a quiet space. We were trying to be as accommodating as possible.”