By Matthew Tomlinson
Recently it has been brought to my attention that campus organizations including the Allies Equality Network, the Student Government Board and the Academic Affairs Committee, are collaborating to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms to certain buildings on campus. Two new gender-neutral bathrooms will be at the McFarland Student Union Building towards the end of the Spring 2015 semester, and within the next few months, the one-person restrooms in Lytle, Rickenbach and deFrancesco will also become gender-neutral.
As a student here at KU who not only has friends who do not identify as either male or female, but who also opposes the idea of publicly assigned gender roles, I think this is a great idea. This proposal will promote an inclusive and open-minded environment in which everyone’s comfort levels, beliefs and identities are respected.
Initially, my female friends and I were concerned that the plan would require women to share bathrooms with men. However, because this plan will only affect the single-stalled restrooms, women’s privacy and safety will not be compromised.
Personally, I feel as though the university setting is one in which ideas and beliefs are to be fostered, discussed, respected and potentially transformed. Something as commonplace as a bathroom can make all the difference in how people interpret what should and should not be discussed based on the message it conveys. In a world consistently becoming more aware of identity politics, as well as other prevalent social issues, this implementation will help promote discussion and tolerance of marginalized gender groups.
These changes have also brought to my attention the fact that there already have been gender-neutral bathrooms installed in various locations throughout the university; these changes are simply adding to their number.
Schaeffer Auditorium, the Sharadin Arts Building, and the Facilities Building on south campus already have gender-neutral bathrooms.
The fact that there are a growing number of gender-neutral bathrooms being positioned in locations that students will see on their day-to-day routines is fantastic.
However, I feel that a necessary step further would be to have them installed in the dorms and at South Dining Hall. These are areas that are much more frequently visited by students.
But since the current plans simply involve a change of signage, enacting these changes on a larger scale, which would include the dormitories and South Dining Hall, may involve higher costs, as well as safety concerns. If disposing of women’s restrooms is proposed, I would strongly oppose further changes.
Instead, I would ideally like to see the addition of single-stalled gender-neutral bathrooms to these locations. I am aware that this will require more funding, but if there are only gender-neutral bathrooms in the most public buildings on campus, we have to question how much of this is really benefitting the students rather than simply giving us a progressive reputation.
There is currently an information pamphlet as well as a map on the gender-neutral bathroom locations in the works to raise awareness of this project. I’m glad to say I’m attending a school with student groups that are interested in understanding and accepting the multifaceted and diverse needs of the student body.