UC Berkeley needs more gender-inclusive bathrooms

CAMPUS ISSUES: Everyone should have easy access to restrooms on campus that they feel comfortable using.

The campus administration needs to publicly and systematically address the need for widely accessible gender-inclusive restrooms.

The issue is prevalent enough that a group of students, self-titled as the Bathroom Brigade, formed in order to bring attention to these concerns after some faced challenges to find inclusive restroom facilities. Last week, the group held a protest near campus entrances, setting up cups of fake urine next to signs asking passersby, “Where was I supposed to go?”

Some members of the campus, including those who identify as transgender and genderqueer, feel uncomfortable and even threatened when using single-gender restrooms. Typically, the solution to this issue is to use all-gender or single-stall restrooms. But there is a lack of such facilities on campus, which makes trips to inclusive restrooms both a daily nuisance and a continued encroachment on the right to feel secure and welcome on campus.

The discussion of implementing gender-neutral restrooms across campus has been circulating for years. Last year, the United Auto Workers Local 2865 — a student-workers union composed, in part, of graduate student instructors — signed a contract with the university that included stipulations for accommodations to be made for union members who requested all-gender restrooms. The issue was again brought to the forefront of the university’s attention when, this past fall, UC President Janet Napolitano adopted a set of policies designed to make the UC system more accessible to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals. Some of her foremost recommendations were that single-stall restrooms be converted to gender-inclusive restrooms and that gender-inclusive restrooms be included in the design of new university buildings.

According to the Gender Equity Resource Center’s list, there are 33 buildings with unisex, gender-inclusive, multi-stall (in discrete locations) or single-stall bathrooms on campus. Add to that the most recent updates to Dwinelle and Barrows halls, and these kinds of restrooms are available in about 35 of the more than 100 buildings on campus.

As The Daily Californian’s Senior Editorial Board has stated in the past, easily accessible, gender-inclusive restrooms would better serve the needs of our student body. It is reasonable for students to request that all single-stall restrooms — or, at the very least, single-stall restrooms in buildings with multiple bathroom facilities — be converted to gender-neutral facilities by the beginning of the fall semester. In many cases, the conversion of single-stall restrooms to gender-neutral facilities appears to require only the swapping out of the bathrooms’ signs.

There needs to be open and transparent communication between student stakeholders and administrators on this issue. In the past, the campus has said there is more to redesignating bathrooms than simply changing the signs. In these cases, administrators need to clearly communicate the reason for this. To successfully navigate obstacles, students, faculty and administrators must come together to formulate an official plan with a timeline and realistic goals. The final goal should be the implementation of all-gender bathrooms in as many campus buildings as possible. All-gender bathrooms should be the norm, not the exception, on a campus that prides itself on its progressive values. We hope that UC Berkeley will set the standard by flushing away the bureaucracy and poor communication that are currently clogging the forward momentum on this project.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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