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Coalition pushes for new restrooms on campus

photo courtesy of flickr.com

Loyola’s Unified Student Government Association (USGA) has recently formed a committee to create and maintain gender-neutral bathrooms across campus.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are facilities that have all the features that would be found in men’s or women’s restrooms, but are not designated for one specific gender. These bathrooms are designed for people who do not feel comfortable using gender-labeled facilities.

Junior Lucas Fleisher, a 21-year-old international studies major, helped form the coalition to support the movement for gender-neutral bathrooms.

“It’s not just one group working on the project. It’s more like a coalition –– there were so many groups working on this already it was easier just to have everyone work together on this,” said Fleisher.

This coalition includes the USGA committees of Facilities/Transportation, Safety/Wellness and Social Justice.

There is also support from Loyola’s Department of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and Advocate –– Loyola’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual student group. All of these groups have worked together to make gender-neutral facilities available on campus.

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locations of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus

Establishing the committee through USGA gives the proposal the legitimacy it needs to receive funding from outside sources, such as private donors and nonprofit groups, Fleisher said. He added that the committee already received funding for the bathroom signs from a private donor, whose name Fleisher did not disclose.

Michelle Lozano, USGA’s chief communications officer, said that the bathroom campaign is primarily being addressed by individual USGA senators and has the support of the executive board.

“The creation of gender-neutral bathrooms is an initiative that really follows Loyola being a socially just institution,” said Lozano, a senior psychology major. “I am confident that USGA and the ad hoc committee will present this legislation to the administration with research, support and the voice of the students to get support from administration. If USGA passes a bill that abides by Loyola’s mission [and] it is in compliance with laws and university policies, then the administration will go forth with the new bill if the financial resources and support of students are present.”

Loyola is not the first university in the Chicago area to push for gender-neutral bathrooms. Northwestern University made the news last summer for its decision to install a pair of gender-neutral restrooms in one of its student centers. More than 150 colleges and universities in the United States have gender-neutral facilities, according to a report from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Loyola sophomore Danny Drees, a supporter of this initiative, said that the university hasn’t done enough for gender-neutral students in the past.

“Offering a single-toilet room is a lot like the idea of ‘separate but equal,’” the 20-year-old political science major said. “I don’t think it’s honoring the dignity of students that don’t conform to the gender binary unless the university offers gender-neutral bathrooms at the same capacity as gender-binary bathrooms.”

Gender-binary refers to the idea that gender can only be classified by two opposite forms: male and female.

The legislation to create gender-neutral bathrooms is aided by the fact that some of the newer buildings –– such as Damen –– on campus already have family bathrooms that some already consider gender-neutral. Labeling gender-neutral bathrooms as such, though, is purely a matter of money for Loyola’s administration, according to Fleisher.

“We’re not going to run into interference based on social issues anymore. It’s just a matter of having the money to make these changes,” Fleisher said.

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Junior Alexa Weilein said that gender-neutral bathrooms are an extremely important addition to Loyola’s campus.

“Not everyone feels comfortable choosing a bathroom based on traditional definitions of gender, and it’s important for everyone to feel safe using the bathroom on our campus,” said the 20-year-old Ad/PR major.

Fleisher added that it is not hard to convert some pre-existing bathrooms into gender-neutral ones.

The committee has specific goals that it hopes to reach, such as distributing maps of all the gender-neutral bathroom locations on campus and increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms, making sure they’re a safe space that anyone could use.

“It’s as simple as allowing Loyola students to be comfortable with who they are and their campus,” Fleisher said. “For a lot of people who are questioning their identity, to have to face struggle and adversity just through their basic environment is something no student should have to deal with.”

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