On Jan. 19, Pitzer College converted two bathrooms in the McConnell Center to be gender-neutral. The bathrooms have replaced a second-floor women’s bathroom and a third-floor men’s bathroom, leaving two separate men’s and women’s bathrooms remaining in the building. The installment of these gender-neutral bathrooms was in response to actions taken by the Pitzer College Student Senate.
Last April, the Student Senate passed Resolution 51-R-14, which called for gender-neutral bathrooms in the McConnell Center, Gold Student Center (GSC), and the first floor of Fletcher Hall. They approved the resolution without opposition and Pitzer’s Diversity Committee unanimously recommended it in November. The Faculty Executive Committee and Presidential Cabinet then reviewed it, with final approval and implementation of the new policy in mid-January.
Chance Kawar PZ ’17, who co-authored Resolution 51-R-14, partially attributed the length of the seven-month process to a lack of awareness surrounding the importance of installing gender-neutral bathrooms. “This is an issue which many people don’t understand – or it’s not even on their radar,” Kawar wrote in an email to TSL. “However, once people started to learn more about this issue, change started taking place fairly quickly.”
Alex Kraemer PZ ‘17 expressed support for the change in McConnell, but also described Pitzer’s overall efforts on the issue of trans and rights as less than satisfactory. “I feel a bit as if trans people, especially trans women and transfemmes, are often tokenized by the Pitzer administration and student body in order to gain ‘liberal cred,’” Kraemer wrote in an email to TSL. “And yet our needs often aren’t really being adequately met.”
While the two restrooms in McConnell have been converted, no plans to install gender-neutral bathrooms in GSC or Fletcher have been publicly announced. Of the 57 restrooms at Pitzer, 25 are now gender-neutral. However, the number of gender-neutral restrooms reported by the college does not reflect the overall availability of such restrooms on campus, as Kawar pointed out.
“There is currently a sign in the GSC directing people to use the Atherton restroom in the event that they require a gender-neutral facility,” Kawar wrote. “However, this particular restroom is in reality only open to people with permission to swipe into that building. So, for example, a Pomona student using the gym or attending an event in the GSC who preferred to use a gender-neutral restroom would basically be out of luck.”
Kawar noted in his email that while the designation was “a step in the right direction,” it only partially addressed Resolution 51-R-14, and he intends to push for further changes. “Now we need to shift the focus to designating gender-neutral restrooms in the Gold Student Center, which is also a critically important building at Pitzer College since it serves as a hub for campus life and student activities,” he wrote.
Pitzer Dean of Students Moya Carter said that while she has encountered little opposition to creating gender-neutral facilities, she has seen some students hesitate in front of the newly converted restrooms. “That’s all I’ve seen, is folks look at the designation on the door and then make a decision if they’re going to enter,” she said. “I think there’s a bit of a learning curve, but certainly nothing negative.”
Al Forbes, acting director of the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges, supported the change and noted that it could promote trans rights in the community. He said the bathrooms serve an educational purpose because “intentionally gender-inclusive restrooms” illustrate gender inclusivity in action.
Carter also expressed her support for additional gender-neutral bathrooms in GSC, Fletcher, and elsewhere. She listed the first floor of Mead Hall and single-stall restrooms in general as clear candidates for further conversion, adding, “The Office of Student Affairs certainly supports gender-neutral restroom facilities, not only in McConnell, but other places on campus that make sense, that haven’t been converted yet but hopefully will be.”