Student petitions for gender neutral bathrooms


Rhonda Wheeler, News Editor

Sydney Mitchell said she believes with the varying genders existing on campus, every student should feel included and safe while using the restroom.

The junior social work major and gender studies representative for the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council started a petition to get gender neutral and family restrooms installed on campus.

“I just saw there was a need,” she said. “It hasn’t affected me directly, but I am a firm believer in fighting for people who don’t have your privilege.”

Mitchell is working to add single-use family restrooms on campus.

She said she believes smaller bathrooms can easily be renovated to make them single-use and larger bathrooms can have doors on the stalls from floor to ceiling.

Mitchell said in a meeting with the Dean’s Advisory Council in September there weren’t many family restrooms on campus.

“Everyone on the advisory board was like, ‘yeah, I can’t think of where one is,’” she said. “So, Dr. Beeby (dean of Liberal Arts said), ‘you should say something about that.’”

Mitchell said she talked to Rochon about her concerns and while he is in favor of the restrooms, he said there must be more student backing for him to seriously consider the proposal.

Mitchell created the petition on a week or two after she spoke with Rochon.

In her petition, Mitchell states, “On USI’s campus, there approximately 85 restrooms, with less than ten being “gender-friendly” restrooms, and up until the spring of 2019, they did not exist. The existing family restrooms are all located in the arena.”

Mitchell said she believes campus is trying to be inclusive and  Rochon has done things to make sure people feel included, but the university hasn’t done everything it needs to.

“Bathrooms are a place in which anyone can be vulnerable, and to someone who does not conform to gender norms, a bathroom can be an incredibly stressful and frightening place because, as we all know, not everyone is accepting of lifestyles that differ from theirs,” the petition states.

An article from the Education Advisory Board (EAB), states “converting existing single-occupancy restrooms is the most cost-effective solution.”

The EAB said gender-inclusive restrooms should be distributed evenly across campus to serve its purpose.

Jim Wolfe, director of facility operations and planning, was unavailable for comment about how much restroom renovations would cost the university.

As of Feb. 25, there are 455 online signatures  and Mitchell reports having 50 signatures on paper. She said she plans on meeting with Rochon and Khalilah Doss, vice president for student affairs, to further discuss the proposal.

The petition will then be presented to the Board of Trustees, who will decide if any further action should be taken.

Mitchell said more signatures are always welcomed.

The petition can be found here.