For students who do not conform to the gender binary, access to all-gender, or gender neutral, bathroom facilities is critical and has recently entered the national discourse. However, the availibility of such facilities at Carleton is inconsistent, and there is no campus wide policy, according to Laura Haave, the Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC).
This is a situation the Community Equity Diversity Initiative (CEDI) has attempted to remedy through a new task force.
Haave, a member of the task force, said gender neutral bathrooms are an issue students frequently come to her to discuss, so the task force is trying to fix this problem.
“At Carleton, many things, including the implementation of all-gender bathrooms, are patchwork,” she said.
According to Haave, some academic buildings do not have all-gender bathrooms, such as Boliou, while other buildings have all-gender bathrooms, but they are placed in inconvenient locations. For example, the all-gender bathroom in the Weitz is located in the basement of the building, and there are no signs to point it out.
Additionally, some dorm buildings do not have all-gender bathrooms because the state law requires a male and a female bathroom on co-ed floors and some co-ed floors only have two bathrooms.
Eileen Lower ’20, one of the two students on the CEDI task force, is familiar with the issues non-gender binary students face. They explained that in some dorm buildings, such as Musser and Myers, students may not want all-gender bathrooms because showers are separated by curtains instead of by locked doors. On other floors, the facilities were originally all-gender, but subsequently changed to a gendered arrangement due to the requests of a few students.
Lower acknowledged this anxiety, saying that some survivors of sexual assault feel the need for a gendered shower. Lower also said, however, that there are survivors of sexual assault who do not conform to the gender binary who must be considered.
The college has taken steps towards improving facilities for non-gender binary persons. In 2016, all-gender bathrooms were installed in the library.
However, CEDI says that more needs to be done, according to physics professor Marty Baylor, the CEDI chairperson.
“These needs are being minimally met,” said Baylor.
CEDI is investigating the best practices on facility allocation and signage, according to Haave and Baylor. The task force is also investigating the requirements and recommendations of different groups to determine the best practice for gender neutral bathrooms.
This includes consulting state and federal requirements, legal codes, and the recommended best practices of LGBTQ+ groups such as Campus Pride and the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT resources.
The construction of new buildings on campus allows for new policies. According to librarian John Mathews, the facilities department intends to install gender neutral bathrooms in the new academic buildings. The new science complex, the music addition to the Weitz and the renovated Scoville hall will all include gender-neutral bathrooms.
CEDI intends to present a preliminary report in March, and a final report will be made in the middle of spring term. It will contain recommendations for a unified policy on gender neutral bathrooms.