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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

New committee considers guidelines for gender neutral facilities around campus

Shortly after a new committee banded together to increase gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, students are helping to create guidelines for these facilities.

The ad hoc committee held a session for students to discuss the development of gender-neutral facilities with committee members on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Emerson Lee and Emily Merrill, two student representatives on the committee, facilitated the session by asking the attendees questions from a survey. A link to the survey was also sent out via a mass email to students, in order to gather opinion prior to the event.

The committee members declined to comment.

In total, there are 16 gender-neutral restrooms located in 12 buildings on campus, according to a previous Western Front article.

“I really just want there to be gender-neutral facilities everywhere where there are restrooms on campus and they certainly need to be accessible,” Colin Nardine said. “Really, every building should have some sort of accessible restroom and I know a lot of them don’t. For gender-neutral facilities, I’d say they need to be as easy to get to as any restroom.”

Nardine also said gender-neutral restrooms should receive the same level of care of as any other restroom.

Another student, Rachel Fairhurst, said there should be as many gender-neutral restrooms as men’s and women’s restrooms on campus.

In addition to the number of gender-neutral restrooms, attendees discussed their accessibility.

Western junior Delta Varela-Glos brought up the fact that four gender-neutral bathrooms exist in Bond Hall, but that it’s problematic because one of them is the only Americans with Disabilities Act accessible bathroom in the building, they said.

“I personally feel really conflicted about it, because it’s like ‘Oh, that’s the bathroom that best fits me but also that’s the only bathroom that some people could physically use,’” they said. “So there’s a big aspect of guilt where it’s like ‘Alright, I know it’s going to take me more than one minute, should I use this space or go to the other bathroom?’ I feel we should try to avoid making that a catch-all bathroom.”

Attendees and session facilitators also considered what image should be displayed on the bathroom doors. There is currently a picture of hands being washed.

“Personally, I really like the signs that are on the gender-neutral bathrooms now,” Varela-Glos said. “Definitely getting a permanent sign, such as the plastic ones, is way better than just the paper because it makes it seem like an afterthought.”

The group also discussed whether the restrooms should be single or multi-stalled.

Western student Jamie Chevalier said, “Multi-stalled are always preferable, because it doesn’t single people out, but in general single-stalled might be all you have space for, and that still has other benefits.”

“I should’ve suggested changing the name… to ‘inclusive’ or something,” Chevalier said after the session.

At Western, all single-stalled restrooms are gender-neutral, according to a previous Western Front article.

Committee members are responsible for recommending guidelines for the facilities after consulting faculty, student leaders and the university community, according to the committee’s charter, according to the previous article.

The Gender-Neutral Guidelines Advisory Committee was formed after students brought a lack of gender-neutral facilities on campus to the attention to Western’s Equal Opportunity Office. The committee held its first meeting in late January, Hartman said.

During the session, the guidelines for the University of California’s gender-neutral facilities were shown on the projector to give attendees a model of what Westerns guidelines will include.

The University of California committee was responsible for working with students and members of the LGBTQ community to create safe facilities for people of all gender identifications and write the guidelines for those facilities to be used on all University of California campuses, according to a letter by Janet Napolitano, the University of California President.

The University of California’s Office of the President created guidelines requesting that single-stall restrooms be converted to gender-neutral restrooms and every new building must include one gender-inclusive restroom on every floor.

How other colleges are implementing gender neutral bathrooms

Like Western, other universities in the state are adding more gender neutral restrooms.

Seventeen of the University of Washington’s buildings are equipped with gender-neutral restrooms, which enrolled 44,786 students in 2014.

At Washington State University in Pullman, 25 buildings on campus are equipped with gender-neutral restrooms, which enrolled 28,686 students in 2014.

Eastern Washington University in Cheney, which served 13,435 students in 2014, currently includes 11 gender-neutral restrooms within seven of their buildings, according to a map on their website.
These Washington colleges provide gender-neutral and gender-inclusive housing: Evergreen State College, Pacific Lutheran University, Whitman College and University of Washington.

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