Faculty,staff working to bring gender-inclusive bathrooms to academic buildings

Kennedy Nolen, Multicultural Reporter

Different faculty and staff members on campus are working on implementing gender-inclusive bathrooms in academic buildings.

Jessica Ward, coordinator for the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, said she has been working on this project since the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester.

At least one gender-inclusive bathroom is located in each residence hall and has been since 2010 or 2011.

Ward worked in Taylor Hall at the time when these bathrooms were being introduced on campus. When someone walks into the hall, the first bathroom they see near the female and male bathroom was turned into a gender-inclusive bathroom.

A gender-inclusive bathroom is also located in the 24-hour lounge in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

“We don’t have a sign maker right now, so there is no sign on it,” Ward said.

Another gender-inclusive bathroom is located in the basement of the Student Services Building.

Ward said multiple faculty and staff members are doing a big push right now and have the permission, so they are just waiting on funding.

“I think with our trans and gender non-conforming students, the bathroom can be a really intimidating place,” Ward said.

Ward said she has spoken with transgender students who have mentioned how they have waited to use the bathroom until they can get back to their hall or somewhere they know is a safe place.

“I think it says a lot if someone walks in (an academic building), and they automatically see this is a safe place. It automatically takes some of that stress down,” Ward said.

Though Ward said they are pushing for gender-inclusive bathrooms because of the trans population at Eastern, but the bathrooms can serve other purposes as well.

“You can use it as a family bathroom or whatever is needed. It is not just for the trans kids,” she said.

Ward and English professor Terri Fredrick walked around campus and through academic buildings to find which bathrooms would be best suited to become gender-inclusive.

“They won’t take money to change over. It’s just the lock you have to put on the door and the sign,” Ward said.

She said once the funding is available, the bathrooms should be changed over.

Housing and Dining Services, the Council on University Planning and Budgeting and other faculty members have given support for the project.

“We did the research that was needed, we provided the proposal and we have been really lucky,” Ward said. “Unfortunately because of (funding,) it has taken a little bit. But it is in the works, so it should be happening soon.”

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].