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College updates gender-neutral restroom signage on campus

The new signage will say “All genders welcome here” in order to publicize updated policy.

Last week, the College increased the number of gender-inclusive restrooms on campus to make spaces more inclusive for LGTBQ+ students. Three additional gender-inclusive restrooms have been added: two in Gund Commons and one in Peirce.

“In regards to restrooms, many of the gender-inclusive restrooms were
already being used as such spaces but had not officially been labeled,” said Jillian Watts, a member of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board and Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“For example, the game room restrooms were labeled as men’s and women’s, but due to the one-room nature of these restrooms, people would go to whichever was available.”

After determining that restrooms in Gund Commons and Peirce Dining Hall could be reworked as gender- inclusive, the administration began researching the logistics of creating signage for gender-inclusive spaces. Before the end of last semester, two signs were chosen — one for gender- inclusive restrooms that were ADA accessible, and another for gender inclusive restrooms that were non-ADA accessible. ADA accessibility refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides standards for the dimensions and accessibility of said restrooms for individuals with disabilities to safely and comfortably navigate and utilize. The signage for these new restrooms contain the same statement: “All genders welcome here.” Watts spearheaded the restroom project last semester. She pointed our the error of referring to a “restroom” as a “bathroom,” noting that there is a distinction between the two even though many people use the terms interchangeably. Restrooms do not have showers, whereas bathrooms do.

To discover which restrooms could be made gender-inclusive, the commit- tee had to do a walk-through of all the restrooms on campus.

In 2014, the Kenyon Campus Senate passed a unanimous resolution concerning the availability of gender-inclusive or gender-neutral bathrooms on campus; Senate did not use the word “restroom.” The Senate recommended that the College take “all appropriate measures … to provide secure gender-neutral toilet and shower facilities in residence halls as soon as feasible,” according to a Collegian article from November 13, 2014. Since that time, 11 gender-neutral bathrooms have been established in first-year and upperclass dorms, including McBride, Mather and Old Kenyon Residence Halls.

With the establishment of gender- neutral bathrooms in residence halls, there has also been a push to create gender-inclusive restrooms around campus. Kenyon’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board made a proposal to create more restrooms this past fall semester. The board includes students, faculty and administrators who work together to tackle issues that affect the queer community on campus.

“There aren’t many gender-neutral restrooms available on this campus, so every time a student presents as non-binary or trans, they have to face discrimination every time they choose to go to a restroom,” Isabella Bird-Muñoz ’18, manager of Unity House and a member of the Advisory Board, said.

Earlier last year, a committee of staff members from the Office of Housing and Residential Life; the Office of Student Accessibility and Support Services; the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and other members of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board assembled to introduce gender- inclusive restrooms around campus. The process of establishing these restrooms took several months. The committee had to abide by Ohio Building Code, which places heavy restrictions on gender-inclusive restrooms in public buildings — for a building to have a gender-inclusive restroom, there must be always be a male and female binary option. Additionally, all gender-inclusive restrooms must be single-stall, meaning they can serve only one person at a time.

Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said changes to the bathrooms and restrooms have cost little to nothing. “We are not making any structural changes to the facilities,” Kohlman said. “We are only putting the appropriate signage on the bathrooms designated by ResLife to be inclusive.”

After communication with Kohlman and submitting the results of the gen- der-inclusive/ADA spaces found by the committee, the renovations were officially approved by the administration last semester; the signs for these restrooms were formally changed last week.

“Everyone deserves to have a space that allows them to feel safe,” Watts said. “Kenyon has made tremendous steps towards inclusivity on campus that surpass many other colleges and universities based on the voices of others.”

“I believe Kenyon will continue to only reach above and beyond when it comes to campus diversity, equity and inclusion,” Watts added.