21-year-old Morgan King is a student at the University of Tennessee.
In addition to studying therapeutic recreation, she also works nights at a restaurant; needless to say, she has a busy schedule.
King is also a single mother, which certainly doesn’t simplify her daily routine; she’s often juggling her work and school responsibilities with her duties as a mom. As a result, King regularly depends on childcare services to care for her young daughter, Korbyn, while attending college classes.
“It is so hard,” King told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “But I am so determined to graduate and get my degree for Korbyn and I. It’s not just about me anymore. I have to do this for us.”
Recently, King missed one of her classes because she was unable to find childcare for Korbyn. She emailed her professor, Dr. Sally B. Hunter, to let her know. That led to a heartfelt response, which has quickly spread across the internet.
“Told my professor I missed class yesterday bc I couldn’t find childcare & this was her response,” King wrote on Twitter. “I’m literally crying. So blessed/thankful.”
Hunter’s response began with a quick rundown of the class work King missed, along with some instructions for accessing a couple of videos. In the second paragraph, however, Hunter addressed the reason for King’s absence.
“In the future, if you are having trouble finding someone to watch Korbyn, please feel free to just BRING HER with you to class. I would be absolutely delighted to hold her while I teach, so that you can still pay attention to class and take notes.”
“I work for the Department of CHILD and FAMILY studies—so how terrible would it be, if I was unable to have a child visit our class?”
Hunter then reiterated the point.
“I’m very serious with this offer—just bring Korbyn with you!”
She ended her letter by officially excusing King’s absence.
The generous, heartfelt note resonated with King, and soon, she wasn’t alone. The tweet of the letter was shared more than 5,000 times and favorited more than 25,000 times.
In one sense, it’s easy to see why the note was so powerful.
In many states, colleges simply don’t offer much support for students who are mothers. 51 percent of four-year colleges offered on-campus childcare as of 2013, while only 46 percent of two-year colleges provided these services.
“It’s taking a long time for institutions of higher education to undergo a culture shift that reflects the changing demographics, and to begin to view themselves as organizations that are family-friendly—not just for faculty, but for students,” said Barbara Gault, executive director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in an interview with The Atlantic.
“Institutions are looking desperately for places to cut. Because there’s so little awareness of the prevalence of students with children I think it often ends up looking like something that’s an extra rather than something that’s essential.”
As the IWPR notes, universities stand to benefit by accommodating students with children. In the meantime, however, professors like Dr. Hunter are an important part of the solution.