Law school students raise concerns over accessibility to gender-neutral bathrooms

Some buildings on West Bank do not have any public gender-neutral restrooms, like the Carlson School of Management, Wilson Library and Willey Hall.

One of two existing gender-neutral restrooms in Walter F. Mondale Hall is seen in the Law Library on Wednesday, Nov. 20. The Law Council recently expressed their support for implementing additional gender-neutral restrooms in the building despite some student opposition.

One of two existing gender-neutral restrooms in Walter F. Mondale Hall is seen in the Law Library on Wednesday, Nov. 20. The Law Council recently expressed their support for implementing additional gender-neutral restrooms in the building despite some student opposition.

Emily Sizen

After some University of Minnesota students raised concerns about gender-neutral bathroom accessibility, the law school announced plans Friday to potentially add additional gender-inclusive restrooms to Mondale Hall.

Mondale Hall — home of the University of Minnesota Law School — currently has two gender-neutral bathrooms. To access them, students have to travel to the fourth floor of the law school’s library. Getting to these bathrooms can sometimes take around 10 minutes, said Kati Harris, president of the Law Council, a governance body consisting of law school students.

Garry Jenkins, dean of the law school, released a statement to students Friday detailing plans to look at the infrastructure of Mondale Hall and see if adding more gender-neutral restrooms would be possible. The dean’s office plans to have a decision by February.

“As always, we want to partner with students in collaborative efforts to improve the environment and culture at the Law School,” Jenkins said in the statement. “I encourage all members of our community with ideas on building a more welcoming and inclusive environment to communicate with Law School leadership.”

Some buildings on West Bank do not have any public gender-neutral restrooms, like the Carlson School of Management, Wilson Library and Willey Hall, according to the All-Gender Restroom Map of the University’s campus.

The Law Council signed a letter of support on Nov. 12 to add three new gender-neutral bathrooms to Mondale. The letter proposes renovating two of the gendered bathrooms into all-gender restrooms on the first floor. It also proposes to add another one to the third floor of the law library. 

The law school stated it would consider the Law Council’s request and encourages students to communicate with law school leadership about the issue.

First-year law student Chase Lindemann said the law school should live up to its promise of inclusivity and community by adding these bathrooms.

“From day one, the school has always been like, ‘This is a community,’” Lindemann said. “I feel like this is just one minor step in that process, is just making sure people are comfortable with their surroundings.”

Harris said that around 20 percent of all University law students emailed council members expressing their views.

Some students raised concerns about access to gendered restrooms if they were renovated into gender-neutral bathrooms, citing comfort levels. Others said they had “personal concerns” with adding all-gender bathrooms.

However, Harris said that there are multiple gendered bathrooms on the first floor that can be used. But the majority of those who reached out, she said, were in support of the proposal.

First-year law student Annika Cushnyr said right now the process of getting to the gender-neutral bathrooms is too long and the location prevents people from being able to use them. 

“For [first-year law] students, all of our classes are in the basement. So you’re going to have to go up five floors, that’s not something you can do in a break between classes, like it’s really inaccessible,” Cushnyr said. 

She said she does not understand why adding a gender-neutral bathroom is a concern.

“I guess I just didn’t understand why the ongoing debate about whether on not gender-neutral restrooms should exist even is happening. To me, it’s just a basic human right,” Cushnyr said.