Lewis & Clark builds Gender-open bathrooms in 20 non-residential buildings on the undergraduate and graduate campuses
By Julie Oatfield /// Staff Writer
After many months of work among student groups, Facilities Services and the administration, Lewis & Clark built gender-neutral bathrooms in a total of 20 non-residential buildings on both the undergraduate and graduate campuses.
Last academic year, a campaign led by the Feminist Student Union, Queer Resource Center and United Genders & Sexualities club collected hundreds of signatures from the student body for a petition demanding gender-neutral bathrooms on the academic side of campus.
The campaign was primarily launched to create a more inclusive environment for trans and non-gender conforming students, and the efforts continue to ensure basic rights for anyone feeling unsafe using male and female cis-gendered facilities. The issue came up several years ago in a bill passed by ASLC, but they lacked jurisdiction over what may fall out of “student activities,” and the administration deemed such renovations as the work of Facilities.
Associate Vice President for Facilities Michel George said accessible unisex bathrooms are a priority for Facilities Services. His goal is to have at least one in every building on campus in the next three to four years, with renovations to existing buildings requiring the installation of a gender-neutral restroom and any new buildings to include one as well.
George said that Facilities Services received “no negative reactions from the administration.” Converting a single-stall, handicapped-accessible bathroom from gendered to unisex costs about $400-$500 for a sign and a better lock, while a conversion project in JR Howard’s facilities would require changing the walls and plumbing systems to include both stalls and urinals, which could cost upwards of $15,000 for a multi-stall, gender-neutral bathroom.
Though Facilities Services has generally been referring to “unisex” bathroom projects, some students have asked for different terminology. Designating bathrooms as “gender-open” is considered by many to be a more respectful term that does not attempt to box or define student’s identities. When asked about terminology and the use of “gender-open,” George emphasized that “we [in Facilities] wouldn’t be adverse to that,” and that the goal of the renovations is to make sure “everybody can use them.”
Nicole Calande (’16), former president of United Genders & Sexualities, said that multi-stalled, gender-open bathrooms would be a much better option than boxing students who are uncomfortable with existing facilities into the “other” unisex stalls. “(Multi-stalls) are important if the administration wants to promote the image of an inclusive campus,” Calande said. She hopes that the administration will put money behind any verbal or written support for more inclusive facilities.
In the meantime, students have opportunities to be updated and involved in the efforts of bringing more accessible facilities to campus.
Calande encourages students to be aware of the weight of the issue: “Some students see this more as a cool, progressive issue, but I’ve heard personal stories of students who fear using [cis-gendered] bathrooms.”
The article was updated on Sept. 26th at 12:49 to include the proper title for Calande and unnecessary, disrespectful quotation marks were removed.