Pitzer Senate Proposes Adding Gender-Neutral Bathrooms to McConnell and Gold Student Center

Pitzer student senators Chance Kawar PZ ’17 and Anna Pleskunas PZ ’17 introduced a resolution
to the Student Senate April 5 asking for the designation of additional on-campus
gender-neutral restrooms.

On March 29, the Senate passed Resolution 51-R-11, which issued a campus-wide survey to assess students’ opinions on converting single-gender restrooms to gender-neutral. The poll found that 84 percent of respondents believed that having publicly and conveniently available
gender-neutral restrooms on campus is very or somewhat important. The survey
received responses from 16.5 percent of the student body.

The survey data served as a springboard
for Resolution 51-R-14, which was approved at the April 12 Senate
meeting. The resolution reads that “gender-neutral
restrooms facilities are currently not easily accessible or available on all
parts of the college campus, creating an uncomfortable and unnecessary burden
on students who may identify outside of the male-female gender binary.”

The
final vote consisted of 36 votes of approval, zero opposed and zero abstentions.

“Pitzer has always maintained a unique identity
with our commitment to social justice and social responsibility,” Kawar wrote in an email to TSL. “Part
of adhering to these values means embracing all people for who
they are, even if they identify as being outside of the traditional gender
binary.” 

Currently, there are 57 restrooms at Pitzer, with 23
gender-neutral, 18 women’s and 16 men’s bathrooms.

The resolution
aims to convert existing restrooms in the two buildings with the heaviest traffic on
Pitzer’s campus: McConnell Center and the Gold Student
Center (GSC). Moreover, it also looks to convert the restrooms on the first floor of
Fletcher Hall, since the facilities currently cater only to women.

Even though about 40 percent of Pitzer’s bathrooms are currently gender-neutral, many are not accessible to the public, with some of them even being barred to Pitzer students. Kawar wrote that it is essential that McConnell and GSC, the two most popular student hubs, have bathrooms accessible to all genders.

According to statistics published in last week’s issue of
TSL, approximately six percent of Pitzer’s
incoming class of 2019 identify as neither male or female.

Finn Williams PZ ’17, Vice President of Rainbow People Collaborative, a Pitzer club that talks about queer issues and culture, wrote in an email to TSL that they support the Senate’s resolution. Williams wrote that it seemed like an “oversight” that the GSC, which reopened last year after renovation, had neither a gender-neutral bathroom nor locker room.

“Hopefully, the resolution will actually be enacted … and that the bathrooms that are converted are not out-of-the-way restrooms,” Williams wrote. “Ideally, the administration will see that the student body wants these changes, since the majority of voters approved a resolution. This is another step for Pitzer to recognize trans* people and support the community.”

Brian
Carlisle, vice president for student affairs at Pitzer, wrote in an email to TSL
that creating gender-neutral bathrooms is consistent with the college’s core value of social justice. The resolution is now pending approval from the President’s
Cabinet, where it will be evaluated for feasibility.

When questioned about feasibility in the Senate
meeting, senators said that they did not foresee any
issues regarding cost. Expenses are expected to be minimal, since existing restrooms will be converted through signage changes and locking
mechanisms on external doors.

There has also been consideration of instances of potential discomfort for individuals who have to use the gender-neutral restrooms. Highlighting that this was an important
aspect of the conversation, senators discussed
hypothetical problems and how they might be resolved.

Kawar pointed out that the Resolution seeks only
to convert one set of restrooms in the GSC and McConnell Center. Segregated
men’s and women’s restrooms would still be available
to all, although they may be located in different areas.

“Our primary
goal here is to make sure there are restroom options for people of any gender,
and that these restrooms are distributed across campus,” Kawar wrote. “In my view, that includes
a balanced mixture of men’s, women’s, and gender-neutral restrooms.” 

Rainbow People Collaborative is hosting a discussion April 23 in Pitzer’s West Hall to discuss “the gendering of restrooms and the resulting accessibility and safety issues” and the Senate vote, according to the Facebook event page.

Williams wrote that although the Senate’s resolution was a factor in pushing the discussion forward, “the impetus for the dialogue came from several places.”

“It’s something that has been talked about in club meetings and has been a frustration for many people who feel uncomfortable using or unable to use gendered restrooms,” they wrote.

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