Edwards College adds new all-gender restroom

Students and staff are excited about the Edwards College newest addition of a temporary all-gender restroom created to meet the needs of students and promote inclusivity. 


Gregory Stephens, a graduate assistant in student advocacy and intervention in the dean of students office, said the restroom was added to the Edwards College on Feb. 22. Stephens said the bathroom can be accessed through the black box theater or outside the building. He said the current situation is not ideal because of its limited accessibility and placing students outside the building, but it is progress.  


He said his research focuses on all gender bathrooms on college campuses and how to gain more in number and in access to CCU’s campus. 


“If you have an all-gender bathroom in every single building, but they are all on the third floor in the corner, that’s not helpful because they are hard to access and most people don’t even know they are there,” Stephens said.  


Gary Schmidt, the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Edwards, said this new bathroom is temporary. Schmidt said a more accessible, permanent all-gender restroom will be added to the second floor of Edwards and the current temporary space will be returned to the theater department. He said the project to obtain an all-gender restroom began last semester and there were several discussions about how to move forward with Claudia Bornholdt dean of the Edwards College and Atiya Stokes-Brown the vice president of the diversity, equity, and inclusion office. 


“I am very grateful for the advocacy of Dean Bornholdt and Dr. Stokes-Brown, and her intervention with President Benson, who came out very firmly in favor of this, and, I believe, also provided the resources,” Schmidt said.  


He said there is a considerable amount of money and construction going into the permanent all gender restroom and will be constructed in a time when it will not be disruptive, like a summer break.  


Furthermore, Schmidt said this addition came from a lot of feedback from students who did not feel comfortable using the bathroom of their assigned gender or of their gender identity and needed another option. Schmidt said he can imagine how many people outside of transgender and nonbinary communities, including families and breastfeeding people, might benefit from the private space. 


Stephens, a transgender man, said the feeling of having and using an all-gender bathroom can be freeing. He said, in his experience, it was a key part of transition where he felt happy and safe.  He said all-gender bathrooms are also safe spaces for those of racial and ability minorities.  

Stephens said, according to his research, all gender bathrooms boost morale among students, raise their scores, and increase enrollment.  


Ina Seethaler, director of the women and gender studies department, said public restrooms are so common, they are often used as symbols and tools. She said the separation of gender in public restrooms is a tool society uses to perpetuate gender norms and the gender binary.  


Seethaler said because of these factors the public restroom has been used as a ground for anti-trans rhetoric, often surrounding the protection of cis-gendered women. She said this rhetoric is often not based in fact since studies tend to show trans and nonbinary people as victims of assault rather than perpetrators. 


“People really don’t seem to actually care about (violence against women), unless it can be used as a rhetorical tool to push for a specific political agenda,” Seethaler said.  


Seethaler said she believes the addition of an all-gender restroom is a positive. She said studies show there are negative physical and psychological effects on nonbinary and transgender students, such as increased rates of urinary tract infections, dehydration, and lack of focus, when there are no all-gender bathrooms. She said providing this more private space will benefit everyone.  


Stephens said he is currently working with Student Advocacy for Gender Equality (SAGE) to publicize all-gender restrooms, and help students locate them by creating an updated and accurate map. In addition, Stephens said he is pushing for a multi-stall all-gender bathroom in the future. He said the future for Edwards College looks bright in terms of diversity and inclusion.