UC Berkeley to unlock campus restrooms to increase accessibility

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The campus began an initiative earlier this month to unlock restrooms in campus buildings in order to increase accessibility.

The initiative, announced via email to the campus community, will require all restrooms in campus buildings to be unlocked for general use in order to comply with the state building code. The code requires that a certain number of restrooms be available based on the expected occupancy of the building. Unlocking restrooms will also be cost-effective, the email said, as building additional restrooms can be expensive.

The email was jointly signed by Robert Lalanne, the vice chancellor of real estate; Andrew J. Szeri, vice provost for strategic academic and facilities planning; Margo Bennett, UCPD’s chief of police; and Frank A. Fasano, director of facilities services.

“All restrooms need to be unlocked to meet the building code,” said Christine Shaff, director of communications for the campus real estate division.

Shaff said that campus buildings currently have just enough restrooms to fulfill the state’s building code and that keeping any of them locked will result in a violation of the code. She added that she has heard complaints about locked restrooms in buildings located on the west and east sides of campus but believes that the problem is widespread.

Many restrooms were originally locked because several individuals who are not affiliated with the campus — including a sizable homeless population — used them regularly, according to Ava Snyder, a UCPD lieutenant.

Snyder said homeless individuals would often stay in the restrooms for hours at a time for shelter and bathing purposes. She added that the role of UCPD in this initiative is to make sure police officers are more vigilant when unaffiliated individuals use the restrooms as more are gradually unlocked.

Earlier this month, a student group called the Bathroom Brigade protested to push the university to provide more gender-neutral restrooms on campus.

“Some of the restrooms that are going to be unlocked may be candidates for gender-neutral restrooms,” Shaff said

Amanda Armstrong, a doctoral candidate in the campus rhetoric department, said she is “glad” the campus is going through with the initiative.

Armstrong said graduate student workers have a contract with the university that entitles them to an accessible restroom within a reasonable distance. She said this is not always the case and hopes that this initiative will help mitigate the issue.

Armstrong added that she thinks there is “overblown anxiety” regarding the issue of unaffiliated individuals using campus restrooms.

Shaff said that although the initiative is effective immediately and some restrooms have already been unlocked, certain restrooms may take longer to unlock due to the type of lock in place, and she called for patience from the campus community.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.