Thirty-five gender-inclusive bathrooms implemented on campus

The FSU administration and the SGA Gender-Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee have fulfilled the committee’s goal of creating gender-inclusive restrooms on campus after two years of work.

The committee formed in the spring of 2014 with graduating senior Christopher Hajeck as its chair, but began pushing for gender-inclusive housing and restrooms the following fall.

Calvin Ridley, senior and chair of the committee since fall of 2014, said, “The goal was to get more gender inclusive, but also just to make campus safer for a lot of people.

“For instance, a student who is female-to-male transgender was being placed on a female floor. It was uncomfortable for them, also uncomfortable for everyone else – even if they were aware of the situation and respectful of it. … There were some situations where people were unsafe. Where roommates were not OK with it.”

Now, students can opt into gender-inclusive housing.

Many of the gender-inclusive residence hall rooms are located near the new gender-inclusive restrooms, according to Ridley.

“We kind of had to do them both at the same time,” added Ridley. “It would have been pointless to just do gender-inclusive housing and not address the bathroom issue.”

FSU administrators began working to establish the gender-inclusive restrooms and created five unisex bathrooms in campus public buildings in January 2015. Room 214A in the McCarthy Center, 214 in Dwight, C-114 in the library, 206 in Foster Hall and 112 in Crocker Hall were the original five.

There are now 35 gender-inclusive restrooms throughout 15 different buildings on campus.

Rylan O’Day, president of Pride Alliance, said, “When the first batch came out last year – the first five – my boyfriend and I went around and found most of them. … The biggest problem we faced was that a lot of them were locked or in a room that was locked.”

Maureen Fowler, environmental health and safety coordinator, said meetings were held among multiple departments to address the issue of gender-inclusive restrooms. “In my opinion, Kim Dexter was a driving force in this matter.”

Dexter, director of equal opportunity, title IX and ADA compliance, is also an advisor to Pride Alliance, FSU’s LGBTQ+ club.

Ridley said, “Kim Dexter had put forth proposals for gender-inclusive housing years ago, but they just hadn’t been taken to. The point of the committee was to get student backing behind it.”

Fowler said, “We talked more about it because there was a subcommittee of the students who got together and asked for assistance.”

Ridley explained, “The administration was really good about it, but the laws of the plumbing code are so strict it was hard to negotiate stuff.”

Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said in an email, “Because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts owns buildings on our campus (such as the Residence Halls), we made the proposal to them and strongly advocated for approval.”

According to Fowler, a state variance from the Massachusetts State College Building Authority was necessary to convert men and women’s restrooms to single-user, gender-inclusive restrooms.

Fowler said, “It would be much more difficult to make a multiple-user restroom be gender neutral because you need to have so many men’s rooms and women’s rooms because of the state plumbing law.”

The original five were handicapped accessible restrooms and were deemed unisex because “they already kind of were,” according to Fowler.

“There had been an initiative started from another state school. They got a variance, then my director, the director of facilities, Warren Fairbanks, applied for us to get a variance with the plumbing board for student-use, single-occupant restrooms,” she added. “It was kind of easy for us because other schools had already started the initiative.”

The bathrooms had to be student-use, and have single appliances only – a single toilet, sink and a shower if necessary. Faculty-only restrooms could not be converted, although staff are able to use the same gender-inclusive restrooms as students. 

Fowler said, “We toured every building to make sure we weren’t missing any. … There was very rigid criteria to remove the gender designation.”

All of the restrooms that met the requirements have been converted, according to Fowler.

Huddleston said in an email, “Final approval was received in February. Signs then had to be ordered and were recently installed.”

The project to create new restroom signs was given to SUNSHINEsign, a company that worked on similar projects at other schools, and cost $2,615.55.

O’Day said, “I’m personally really excited about it. As a trans student on campus, they are bathrooms that I would personally use. That we have multiple bathrooms, one in every single building, gives me the opportunity to go to the bathroom in peace and quiet and not have to be anxious about running into anybody else.”

Elayna Smolowitz, a sophomore, said, “I think that there’s more negative fuss about them than necessary. Almost everyone has used a unisex bathroom and many students are treating it like a big inconvenience, but it’s very important to trans and non-binary students.”

Hunter Tetreault, a sophomore, said, “It’s one of those things I think needs more attention than just throwing it out there. This is a very safe campus, but just to make sure no one has any nefarious intentions when they go in there.”

Hannah Lavin, a junior, said, “I think it’s a great step to make people feel welcome everywhere, and for them to not have to pause and think, ‘If I go in here, am I going to get screamed at? Am I going to get hit?’ That has happened – I don’t know if it’s happened on this campus, but I know it has happened other places. The fear that people are going to abuse the system – that is mostly fear of the unknown. I don’t mean that in an offensive way toward people who are nervous about it, but there is very little actual evidence of people doing that.”

According to Ridley, the Gender-Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee has requested any future construction or major renovations include gender-inclusive restrooms.

Huddleston said in an email, “As new buildings are constructed, gender-neutral restrooms will be included whenever possible.”

Ridley, who is a senior, added, “Next year, whoever they appoint will make up new goals. They’ll have another agenda. … The Gender-Inclusion Committee could go past LGBT stuff and get into women’s rights – anything related to gender.”

Jace Williams, a sophomore, said, “There’s at least one in every building now, which is really important. It kind of stinks that there can’t be one on every floor, but it’s hard to build new bathrooms. … So I understand and I’m taking what I can get.”

Williams added, “I think a lot of what they need to work on is being worked on. Sean Huddleston told me that they got something to make ID changes to be preferred name on the front and then legal name on the back so you don’t have to out yourself just getting into your dorm room, giving it to the SDA. I think that’s great and I am anxiously waiting for it to be implemented. … I’m really glad that I’m at this school, at this time, to help work on these things.”