Amidst ongoing demands for more privacy and inclusivity in residence halls and on-campus restrooms, the Ithaca College Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services partnered with the Office of Residential Life to build 12 new all-gender restrooms.
The renovations took place throughout the summer, with a budget of $975,000, and were completed Aug. 11, in time for incoming students to use the new facilities. These restrooms add to the 40 existing gender-neutral restrooms on campus and can be found on the 11th through 13th floors of West Tower.
The college’s efforts come as support for gender-neutral bathrooms sweeping increases at institutions across the nation. There are currently 150 recorded schools across the U.S. that designate gender-neutral bathrooms, according to Time magazine.
Luca Maurer, the director of the LGBT Center, said these facilities not only create more privacy and security for a larger number of people in the campus community, but they also increase accessibility.
“All-gender bathrooms that are single-occupancy address the needs of many different kinds of people in many different kinds of situations,” Maurer said. “What single-occupancy, all-gender restrooms do is they increase access to restroom facilities, which, of course, everybody needs. … This has been a continuing need for our students as well as our employees.”
Jenny Pickett, assistant director of the Office of Residential Life, initiated the process with a project approval request form she submitted in September 2015. The project review process allows offices and departments to ask for funding for special projects. Pickett said she researched facilities on other campuses and recommended the college renovate bathrooms on two floors of West Tower in the proposal.
Pickett said she suggested the college should move from traditional group-style bathrooms to single-occupancy restrooms to accommodate a growing population of students who feel more comfortable in such a space.
The proposal was accepted in spring 2016 and included three floors in West Tower, which were selected to allow greater accessibility for students with disabilities, as the restrooms on these floors previously did not comply with handicap-accessible guidelines. Pickett said West Tower now complies with those guidelines and can house students with accessibility needs.
Construction on the restrooms began in May, Pickett said, and all of the restrooms now include a sink, counter space, a single toilet and a shower stall. Other renovations in West Tower included adding water bottle–filling drinking fountains and enhancements to lounges on the three floors.
Pickett said her proposals for this fall include continuing work in West Tower to add all-gender restrooms to more floors and changing a current half-bath restroom in Terraces to an all-gender restroom. In addition, Maurer said Residential Life and the LGBT Center are discussing how the college can create more inclusive restrooms across campus facilities.
“We are eager to have these kinds of efforts continue both in the residence halls and across campus in academic and administrative buildings,” Maurer said. “This is both a public health issue and a human right.”
Upon completion of the restrooms this month, Maurer posted a photo to the Ithaca College Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services’ Facebook page, which already has almost 170 likes and over 30 shares. Maurer said the reception of the restrooms from the student body has been overwhelmingly positive.
Senior John Jacobson works in the center as a student employee and said they have been helping promote understanding of the all-gender restrooms on campus. Jacobson said they met with representatives from Residential Life to talk about their experiences as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on campus and what initiatives the college could move forward, one of these being the restrooms.
“Bathrooms are a very sensitive issue because you go to the bathroom every day of your life, so it’s super important that we make sure it’s safe there,” Jacobson said. “And while I don’t live in the dorms anymore, having lived there in the past, I really appreciate and value that other students will have a more diverse experience with them.”