Bathroom controversy follows opening of new residence hall

A women's bathroom sign is covered at Martinez Commons. There has been controversy over the usage of differentiated bathrooms as well as shared facilities by residents.
Gracie Malley/Senior Staff
A women's bathroom sign is covered at Martinez Commons. There has been controversy over the usage of differentiated bathrooms as well as shared facilities by residents.

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Construction still uncompleted, students in the new Maximino Martinez Commons had to quickly adjust to concerns raised over the gender-specific bathrooms in the residence hall when they moved in last week.

Because the eight bathrooms in the newly opened dorm were originally all gender-specific, some residents felt uncomfortable using a gender-designated bathroom. After the concerns were raised, six bathrooms were made coed, according to an email sent to all residents of the building.

“Some people who consider themselves transgender would like the (coed) bathrooms,” said Ciera Dudley, a UC Berkeley sophomore and Martinez Commons resident.

She said splitting bathrooms between single-gender and coed was a good compromise.

The residence hall — which first opened this fall on Channing Way — houses approximately 196 students on four floors, with housing prioritized for sophomore students and upper-division students. The apartments located in Martinez Commons were not affected by the changes to the bathrooms since each apartment has its own bathroom.

Campus housing officials said construction and finishing room set-ups were a priority in meeting their opening deadline.

“We regret that we ran out of time in our pre-opening building reviews and missed this particular detail,” said LeNorman Strong, associate vice chancellor of student affairs for Residential and Student Service Programs, in an email. “The (program’s) planning goals include both single-gender and gender-inclusive (coed) bathrooms.”

Although the residence hall ultimately accommodated both gender-specific and coed bathrooms, all eight bathrooms were first changed to coed. It was then that other students raised concern over the lack of privacy in having all coed bathrooms.

Erun Kham, a sophomore living in the new housing facility, said she was unhappy about the switch to gender-inclusive bathrooms when she moved in. For “personal and religious relations” she said she wanted gender-specific bathrooms as originally advertised on the campus housing website.

“(A) big thing was also my parents,” Kham said. “They wouldn’t want me living here.”

Afterward, following campus policy to accommodate single-gender and coed restrooms, six of the eight bathrooms were coed, while the other two remained gender-specific. The bathrooms are marked with paper signs to alert students to which bathrooms can be used. Other housing facilities, including Units 1 and 2, have both coed and gender-specific bathrooms.