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The Carletonian

Plans set for all-gender bathroom in Leighton

<r many of the members of Carleton’s community who identify as transgender, gender non-binary or gender nonconforming, it is difficult to find inclusive bathroom facilities in some areas of campus. With recent approval from the administration, the college is taking steps to remedy this issue by constructing an all-gender bathroom in Leighton. The bathroom project will begin this summer and is planned to be complete by Fall 2019.

Leighton Hall is home to Carleton’s Religion, History, Philosophy, and Sociology and Anthropology departments, and is where these departments’ classes are usually held.

“Going to the bathroom in Leighton has been an interesting experience,” said Cas Roland ’22, who identifies as non-binary. “A large majority of my curriculars and extracurriculars are there, so I’m in the building quite a lot. Sometimes, in order to use a bathroom I’m comfortable with, I walk to other buildings between classes or wait until classes are over and go to my dorm.”

The Bathrooms Monitoring Committee, a working group created in 2017 by the Community, Equity, and Diversity Initiative (CEDI), has found that 19 campus buildings “do not have access to all-gender restrooms,” according to the committee’s public meeting notes from November 2018. Along with Leighton, the list includes buildings such as the Center for Math and Computing, the Language and Dining Center, and Sayles-Hill Campus Center.

In Spring 2017, the Bathrooms Monitering Committee petitioned administrators to look into building an all-gender restroom in Leighton. According to committee chair and Associate Professor of Physics Marty Baylor, the team’s primary goals are “to identify the areas of Carleton that have a lack of bathroom options for non-binary students, consult students and review their concerns, and offer financially feasible recommendations for the college to implement more inclusive restrooms.”

According to Baylor, the current policy Carleton has for such bathrooms is that “Carleton includes all-gender restrooms in all new construction and, where possible, will include them in major renovation projects.”

Since the group’s formation, the Bathrooms Monitoring Committee has highlighted several older buildings on campus which lack equal facilities and are not necessarily included in Carleton’s policy. One of the locations on campus the task force noted, among other academic and residential buildings, was Leighton Hall.

In Fall 2018, the Bathrooms Monitoring Committee conducted an investigation on the financial feasibility of renovating Leighton to include an all-gender bathroom. “After a campus-wide audit of accessible and inclusive bathrooms, the Bathrooms Monitoring Committee worked with facilities to identify different classes of restrooms,” said Baylor. “For example, restrooms that could be signed as all-gender (and ADA accessible) in non-dorm spaces with minimal or low cost.”

“We also identified buildings with high need and looked for opportunities where costs might be high but doable. Leighton fell in to this category.” Once the group received a financial estimate of the Leighton project from architects, the group presented a feasibility plan to Carleton’s Tuesday Group and Capital Funding and Priorities Committee. On March 5, 2019, the project was approved by both. Construction will begin this summer and is planned to be completed by the fall of 2019 for the next academic year.

“The Bathrooms Monitoring Team is excited about the project,” said Baylor. “It addresses a clear need and I am glad that the administration has earmarked money for this type of project. There aren’t enough financial resources to do everything that we as a campus might want to do to provide restrooms for all. That said, we are doing what we can and I am proud of that.”

Students and staff have expressed similar enthusiasm. Roland stated, “I really love the fact they are making an all-gender bathroom there. I chose to go to Carleton because they made me feel welcome and paid attention to non-binary students.”

The new Director of Carleton’s Gender and Sexuality Center, Danny Mathews, said: “People who are transgender or non-binary often face discrimination and ignorance when they attempt to use these public spaces. Providing an alternative like gender neutral bathrooms can help alleviate some of the fear and anxiety surrounding use of these spaces.”

The systems in place at Carleton to approve and manage such projects, nonetheless, can make the actual implementation of these crucial facilities slow. Chair of CEDI Joe Chihade related this issue to the fact that the college tries to listen to diverse voices from the community, student body and staff. Chihade stated that, while such projects seem slow-to-come, they are also “incremental steps toward a larger goal to make Carleton more accessible for all. We’re definitely not done with our work, but we’re making progress.”

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