By Madeleine Thompson
On Oct. 28, Campus Senate unanimously passed a resolution recommending that all single-stall bathrooms on campus be converted to gender-inclusive or gender-neutral. The resolution, Senate’s first in over a year and a half, calls for Kenyon to take “all appropriate measures … to provide secure gender-neutral toilet and shower facilities in residence halls as soon as feasible,” in addition to increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus as a whole.
“We decided that this was a no-brainer in the fact that it was not only pragmatic insofar as you have a single-stall bathroom which you lock behind you, [so] it doesn’t really matter what the gender of the person in there is,” Senate Co-Chair Conrad Jacober ’15 said. “It will additionally create shorter lines when that comes up. … And not only that, it does more justice to transgender students and other students who identify outside of the gender binary because it gives them an option that they feel more comfortable using.”
Though the measure has passed Senate, it is up to President Sean Decatur to approve and oversee its official implementation. Since a resolution has not been passed during his tenure thus far, the procedure is unclear, muddied also by the confusion surrounding compliance with Ohio building codes. “[Chief Business Officer] Mark Kohlman and [Director of Housing and Residential Life] Jill Engel-Hellman will be discussing the logistics of the residence hall portion of the resolution,” Decatur wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Mark is also investigating what (if any) building code waivers we will need for the conversion of single-stall restrooms, as well as the process by which we apply.”
Engel-Hellman clarified that there are currently gender-neutral bathrooms in several residence halls, but said extending them to other buildings was a matter of making sure there were enough options for everyone to feel comfortable. “What we’ve been doing is researching what that means,” she said, adding that she has not encountered any code issues in her previous experience. “Certainly within spaces like Peirce [Hall] and places that are newer, we’re within that realm of where we need to be, but my understanding is that we need to be able to offer … bathrooms that would be both male and female and then gender inclusive. It has to do with being able to offer different options to people.”