The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Students hand deliver petition for all-gender restrooms to Gatrell

Left%2C+Eastern+Illinois+University+President+Jay+Gatrell+holds+petition+for+all-gender+restrooms%2C+hand+delivered+by+graduate+student+Theo+Edwards+while+petition+signers+stand+in+support+in+the+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.%2C+University+Union.+
Cam’ron Hardy
Left, Eastern Illinois University President Jay Gatrell holds petition for all-gender restrooms, hand delivered by graduate student Theo Edwards while petition signers stand in support in the Martin Luther King Jr., University Union.

Dozens of students rallied at the Mellin Steps before handing off a petition to Eastern’s President Jay Gatrell to include all-gender bathrooms on campus Thursday.

Graduate student Theo Edwards led the petition signing on social media. Edwards said the center for gender and sexual diversity committee has been working on the petition since the beginning of the academic school year.

As someone who has been affected by bathroom inaccessibility, Edwards said they felt as though they should be the one to step up and hand deliver the petition to Gatrell.

They said that administration told them that gender neutral bathroom incorporation was in the works, but Edwards said they wanted to hold the university accountable.

As far as getting the petition started, associate professor Shelley Berry helped write the petition, and Edwards created a form online for it to gain signatures alongside going to different events to gain signatures as well.

“This kind of thing isn’t something that one person could do alone,” Edwards said. “It should be an EIU community effort.”

Sophomore English education major Katie Gillespie was at the petition hand off. Starting the fall 2024 semester, Gillespie will be Eastern’s pride president.

Prior to the handoff, Gillespie said the movement should make an impact.

“Having all these people here will show the university that this is an issue we care about, and this is something that’s important to the student body,” Gillespie said.

Students walk to the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union to hand off a petition for gender-neutral bathrooms to University President Jay Gatrell. (Cam’ron Hardy )

Courtney Klaers, a junior political science major, also stood with the crowd at the petition hand off.

Klaers said that having all-gender bathrooms allows them to feel more comfortable. The restrooms allow Klaers to have a space where they do not have to explain themselves to other people.

“I know that internally it feels a lot better for me to use them,” Klaers said.

After a quick speech by Edwards, supporters assembled to the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union to give the petition to Gatrell during his open office hours.

After the signing, Gatrell said he felt grateful that students are concerned about the issue. He said having all-gender restrooms has been something that has been talked about for a while and that the petition was completely reasonable.

“It’s a direction we want to move, the challenge, of course, being the very old infrastructure on campus,” Gatrell said. “But we will be designating an all-gender facility in Old Main over the summer.”

The project will start as soon as the semester is over, according to Gatrell.

Gatrell said that anything that will allow students to feel included while being in code he is in support of.

Some of the challenges Gatrell faced with including the restrooms include preservation rules. He also said that there are codes about square footage, occupancy and a certain amount of fixtures.

“We’re committed to investing in it and moving this forward,” Gatrell said.

Edwards said they plan on checking up with administration during the fall 2024 semester.

 

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Cam’ron Hardy
Cam’ron Hardy, News Editor
Cam'ron is a junior journalism major. He previously served news editor and campus editor at The News. 

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