UAL accused of ‘discrimination’ after banning student mother from breastfeeding on campus

She started a campaign so students with childcare duties ‘don’t have to drop out of university’

A student at the University of the Arts London (UAL) has accused the uni of discrimination after she was banned from breastfeeding her newborn on campus.

Jasmijn Toffano, a 29-year-old studying graphic communication design at UAL’s Central Saint Martins (CSM) campus, claimed the decision was made after she was “led to understand” she could care for her baby while attending lectures.

She is now submitting a formal complaint on her case and starting a campaign calling for all UK unis to have better maternity policies.

The uni justified their decision by saying their campuses are “filled with equipment and machinery which create a potentially dangerous environment” for babies. But they admit there’s room for improvement and said they “will be reviewing its current policies in light of this case.”

Photo credit: Jasmijn Toffano

Jasmijn reportedly told the uni she was pregnant with her daughter Chloe in January and was “under the impression” that she would be able to bring and breastfeed her baby on campus. But just two days before she was set to return for the new academic year, the uni u-turned on their message and denied her access onto the campus with Chloe.

They reasoned that the campus is unsuitable for childcare since it’s “filled with specialist equipment and machinery” and cited having a baby routinely on campus as “in direct contravention of the university’s ‘children on site’ policy” – something written 13 years ago.

The student mother has still been “struggling to balance between the current ongoing lectures and [her] baby’s needs.” Her husband was able to take care of the newborn while he was still on paternity leave, but that was only a short-term solution.

She told The London Tab that she accepts the university’s decision but would like to suggest a “real solution” to this issue in the form of a campaign.

She said: “I believe every person has the right to access higher education no matter at what stage of their life. So, what I think should be done to support parents who study at University is to create a space inside the University where it is safe for children to enter.

“This space can work as a nursery available for University students/staff on request in collaboration with established nurseries that can send a teacher on request when needed. This should be a standard for all Universities and should be supported by the government to help Universities and students/staff cover the costs.”

For students and staff keen to support this cause, Jasmijn calls on them (“especially graphic communication design students”) to create posters or statements that show support to student parents.

She said: “If you are experiencing or have experienced something similar or want to be part of this action, please send an email and/or your poster/statement to [email protected]. On the poster, add your name (or anonymous), your university, and the year of study.

“What I would like to see in the future is that students who have children do not have to drop out of University because of the lack of support from the university or because of policies that make parents’ and student life very hard.

“I believe we can make a change, and it’s not impossible,” she said.

Photo credit: Jasmijn Toffano

An UAL spokesperson said: “Our campuses are filled with specialist equipment and machinery which create a potentially dangerous environment for children and babies.

“This means that the university isn’t able to facilitate access for children and babies on a regular basis as we cannot guarantee their safety.

“We have apologised to Ms Toffano for the conflicting information she received in the first instance and the time it took for her to gain clarity on the matter. This shouldn’t have happened and we are sorry for the distress this has caused. We recognise there is more that we can do to provide better facilities for caregivers and this is something that we are actively engaged in improving. UAL will be reviewing its current policies in light of this case.”

“We have offered Ms Toffano access to a private room and fridge to allow her to express milk and we will work with her to ensure it is suitable for her needs. Our priority is to ensure Ms Toffano can complete her course and we are in touch with her to discuss what adjustments can be made to support her.”

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