More calls for neutral restrooms

Graduate student leaders are pushing to expand campus’s gender-inclusive bathrooms.

by Raj Chaduvula

The Council of Graduate Students approved a resolution last week supporting the expansion of gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus. 
The COGS resolution was conceived after members saw a bill in the state Legislature that would base restroom use on sex-assignment, not gender identity, COGS President Nicholas Goldsmith said.
“It made many of us uncomfortable … and it sends a bad message on campus climate,” Goldsmith said. 
When it became clear the bill had no traction in the Legislature, COGS’s resolution morphed into a statement supporting the expansion of gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus, Goldsmith said. 
According to Goldsmith, COGS’s statement also reinforced the Transgender Commission’s recommendations for campus restrooms.
Andy Hillis, co-chair of the Transgender Commission, said the coalition is working to change single-stall bathrooms on campus to gender-inclusive or gender-neutral bathrooms.
The Commission’s recommendations were designed to increase both awareness and accessibility to gender-inclusive bathrooms, Hillis said.
In order for this change to be accomplished, specific signage is needed to indicate the location and the status of gender-neutral bathrooms, Hillis said.
According to David Hutton, senior director of District Operations at Facilities Management, the only hurdle for gender-inclusive bathrooms is the University’s building code.
Currently, the occupancy and type of building dictate how many bathrooms a building may have, Hutton said. Restrooms are either gendered or labeled as family-assisted, he said. 
“Unfortunately, building codes don’t keep up with social norms … and don’t address gender inclusivity,” Hutton said.
However, changes are on the horizon. Facilities Management is working to ensure that approximately 270 single-stall bathrooms on campus are updated with gender-inclusive signage, Hutton said. 
About 200 other gender-specific bathrooms at the University cannot be reformulated to gender-inclusive status unless senior University leadership revise current building codes, Hutton said.
“[Transgender students] should not have difficulty in finding these bathrooms,” Hillis said.
Since 2006, the Transgender Commission has been trying to implement accessible restrooms measures for transgender students, said Stef Wilenchek, director of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Programs Office.
The Transgender Commission is proposing a recommendation to the University that would require all newly renovated buildings to have at least one gender-inclusive bathroom, Hillis said.
“It’s about raising awareness and education on the conformities that transgender students have on campus,” Wilenchek said.