Students lead push for gender-neutral restrooms on campus

Announced earlier this fall, student groups on campus will begin leading discussions on gender-neutral bathrooms and their future at the College. Conversations surrounding gender neutral and co-ed bathrooms have been happening on college campuses across the country for years. Gender-neutral bathrooms address issues of inclusivity and gender binaries that many community members struggle with on a daily basis.

In recent years the country has seen a huge push to use gender neutral pronouns, filter speech of homophobic or non-inclusive language, and be more accepting of those whose sexuality or gender identity are not encompassed by traditional speech. Naturally, there has been an ongoing discussion on campus to talk about how these bathrooms should look and be laid out and whether they should replace the campus’s traditional, gendered bathrooms.

Traditional bathrooms typically follow a binary of male and female rooms; however, many people find that they do not fit into the binary system and wish to receive accommo- dations accordingly.

The campus discussion, led by Abby Snyder ’18, is moving at a particularly fast pace, with various administrative groups becoming involved in the prospect of new bathrooms. Snyder’s current goal is to plan for improvements and acquire feedback on the College’s gender-neutral bathrooms, and up-hold the College’s goal of being an inclusive community.

Proponents of gender-neutral bathrooms say that they are important because they help represent the inclusive nature of this school. Additionally, bathrooms that function outside of a gender binary ensure that each and every student can have their preferences met while on campus. Snyder reiterated in an email correspondence that the beneficiaries of these bathrooms are widespread: “our current understanding is that gender-neutral restrooms benefit those who are typically underrepresented when we think about this daily procedure —especially genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and other trans identities, as well as disabled persons who have different gendered helpers.”

Despite the benefits that some see in having bathrooms that are accessible to all people, there are those who find the idea intrusive. One sophomore, who preferred to remain anonymous, said “bathrooms should be a comfortable space, and the idea of having solely co-ed bathrooms would make me uncomfortable and feel like my privacy was being taken away.” Snyder commented that her group’s goal is to have “at least one” gender neutral bathroom in each campus building, not to have all bathrooms be gender-neutral.

Snyder said that the feedback she has received so far has been “overwhelmingly positive,” from students and faculty alike. After the most recent discussions on September 22, Snyder said that “we are beginning with a survey of all restrooms [on campus] to see what the signage is (whether it features a binary, how many single-occupancy restrooms are in each building, and what those single-occupancy rest- rooms look like.” The next steps are to work with the Physical Plant Department to “change signs on single-occupancy restrooms so that they are more inclusive of non-binary identities. After that, we will create a map of the restrooms on campus so that prospective and current students can find what best suits them,” said Snyder.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jim Terhune said in an interview that he believes this conversation is a “hugely important one” for the community to be hav- ing. Terhune said that we should “want to project to visitors and to all that this is a place where people are encouraged to be wholly who they are and feel supported and safe in doing so.”

As the community moves towards increased levels of inclusiveness and seeks more di-versity on campus, the administration is expected to continue its advocacy. One can rightly expect to see more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus in the coming semesters.

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