About a week after the start of the fall semester, several restrooms in Mather and McBride residence halls went from being gendered, to gender neutral. In most areas of these buildings this change met little resistance. The second floor of McBride long side was another story.
Male students there were reportedly angered by a restroom being switched to gender-neutral. McBride resident Ali Colmenares ’19 said the bathroom was initially marked as a men’s room, but was changed a week into the school year to be gender-neutral.
Jill Engel-Hellman, director of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife), said that this summer ResLife asked incoming first-year students on housing preferences forms whether they would prefer to live near a gender-neutral restroom. More than 100 students said they would, prompting the implementation of gender-neutral restrooms in Mather and McBride Residence Halls after the beginning of the school year.
After this change occurred members of the hall removed the gender-neutral sign that had been installed by maintenance according to Colmenares.
Colmenares and a friend made various signs — such as a colorful ornamented one, a crude duct tape sign (which read “Gender F—ing Neutral”) and a sign describing why non-binary students might need a gender-neutral restroom — all of which were removed by others in the hall within hours. In response, the hall’s Community Advisor, Brian Pragacz ’17, sent an email to McBride residents describing the necessity for a gender-neutral bathroom.
“I would be extremely happy to discuss why it’s there or what it means, but I want to remind you all that removing that sign is a hate crime and is discrimination,” Pragacz wrote in the email. “Not everyone is male or female. Not everyone feels comfortable using the bathroom of the gender assigned to them.”
A first-year student who admitted involvement with the sign’s removal and asked to remain anonymous said the act was not intended as one of discrimination, but rather as one of protest.
“About a week after move-in, the bathroom that was originally a men’s bathroom, not a gender-neutral, and was switched, we weren’t told what it was or why,” the student said. The student added that the hall hadn’t been talked to about why the restroom was assigned as gender-neutral. The student said the situation could have been avoided if ResLife had mentioned the change before implementing it.
Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper said it is not clear yet if the incident was a hate crime. “While we don’t know the intent and can’t classify it as a hate crime at this point, it is vandalism, and a breach of College policy,” Hooper said.
Hooper added that, while there are no current suspects or investigations, ResLife and Campus Safety are more than willing to work together to solve such issues. Engel-Hellman, however, believes there will probably be no need for such an investigation as, she said, there is minimal proof of intent.
The anonymous student expressed hope that such incidents wouldn’t happen again. “I don’t have a problem with [gender-neutral bathrooms],” he said. “I think everybody who is going through something, or is confused or identifies as whatever, I think it’s a good safe place for people.”