Signing off on co-ed stalls

Gender-neutral signs should accompany Napolitano’s policy to convert single-stall restrooms into gender-neutral facilities.

On Monday, UC President Janet Napolitano adopted measures to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, staff and faculty. We support many of the policies she presented, including allowing students to indicate a preferred name along with their legal name on official campus records. We also support the policy to convert single-stall restrooms into gender-neutral facilities and to incorporate gender-inclusive restrooms in new and renovated university buildings. But we hope each individual campus will take this one step further, living up to the spirit of the policy by having the bathroom signs also be more gender inclusive.

When Maximino Martinez Commons opened in 2012 — a university-owned housing complex aimed toward sophomore students on the UC Berkeley campus — it initially did not have gender-inclusive bathrooms. After students raised concerns over the lack of co-ed restrooms, the campus made six of the eight bathrooms co-ed. The campus left two gender-specific bathrooms for students who wanted more privacy.

Though these concerns have been long felt by members of the LGBT community, this incident spurred a wider discussion on campus about gender neutrality. For instance, The Daily Californian’s Senior Editorial Board called for more more gender-inclusive options across campus, not simply in residence halls.  At that point in time, we called the decision a “radical step” but one that would mean “living up to our ideals as a progressive campus.” In the span of two years, this decision has become no longer “radical” but an institutionalized part of our campus’s culture.

Our argument from 2012 still holds true — we believe students, faculty and staff who don’t identify specifically as male or female should be able to access gender-neutral bathrooms across campus. But we believe that this measure can be taken a step further to promote an even more inclusive atmosphere on UC campuses. Currently, many bathrooms use the symbols of both a man and a woman to indicate gender inclusivity. Future signs should move past these representations and recognize that not all campus community members identify with a binary gender. A sign that eliminates posting specific genders would be more appropriate.

This may seem like a small matter to some members of the campus community, but for those who do not identify as male or female, these signs can feel exclusive. UC Berkeley has already led the way in the effort to be gender inclusive. It is time as a university to take one more step toward a positive campus environment.

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