Gender neutral bathroom discussion underway

The transgender bathroom accessibility discussion reached the Student Government Association meeting Thursday, with ideas to eliminate gender specific restrooms.

SGA invited economics professor Perry Burnett to speak about his proposal to remodel all bathrooms on campus in an attempt to eliminate gender specifications, while also enabling them to maintain their privacy.

Burnett’s plan includes implementing full, private stalls along the bathroom, which people of any gender may use, and they can then wash their hands at a public sink

“It was frustrating for me to watch society fail to do this (identify problems and offer solutions) properly,” he said. “They continue to mix together two separate issues: gender and privacy.”

Burnett said the bathroom issue has nothing to do with gender, but it is privacy that is the issue. He said society continues to mix these two problems and the level of privacy we have now is not appropriate.

He also cited bathroom legislation like the North Carolina bathroom bill, House Bill 2, saying it doesn’t address the issue.

“We need individual privacy not group privacy,” he said. “The current solutions don’t understand this and must resort to excluding people from some defined group.”

SGA members understood that policies need to be changed.

“Adjustments are necessary and I think that a lot of times people are uncomfortable with change,” said College of Business representative Bradley Flittner.

While Flittner agrees with Burnett’s proposal, he thinks a trial run with a third bathroom would ease people into the idea of gender neutral bathrooms.

“It would get people more comfortable with the idea and show that anarchy will not ensue from people just going to the same bathroom,” he said.

Burnett said he contacted a couple of administrators like Romain College of Business Dean Mohammed Khayum and university President Linda Bennett about his idea, but did not talk at length. He decided to reach out to SGA to see if they would hear his proposal.

“Our university prides itself on being ‘student-centered’ so I went to the group with the power,” he said.

Burnett said does not know of anyone who has a problem with the current system and has no polling data on those affected by the system. He is also unsure of the cost to remodel all bathrooms on campus, but disagrees with the idea of creating a third “family bathroom.”

“This is an issue that we have to solve,” Burnett said. “Why not be an example to our society that USI and Indiana are an innovative and inclusive community that solves actual problems.”