UC Office of the President announces measures for LGBT inclusion

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The UC Office of the President announced Thursday a series of measures to ensure an inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, faculty and staff across the University of California.

Beginning in fall, students will be able to voluntarily list their gender and sexual orientation on their undergraduate application so that the administrators of each campus can more accurately allocate resources and develop programs based on the campus’s needs. Additionally, the university will begin a two-year project to promote the research and understanding of gender and sexuality by both students and faculty, culminating in a systemwide symposium.

Many UC campuses have already converted single-stall restrooms into gender-neutral facilities in existing buildings, but under the new measures, new buildings and ones undergoing major renovations will be required to include gender-neutral bathrooms and changing rooms starting July 1.

These measures are derived from recommendations made in 2014 by an LGBT task force created in June 2012 by former UC president Mark Yudof. UC President Janet Napolitano created her own advisory group after receiving the recommendation in June 2014 to build on the work of the original task force.

Not having gender-neutral bathrooms in campus buildings is “a huge, huge burden,” according to David Green, a transgender female graduate student in the campus’s Goldman School of Public Policy and member of the student group Queer Issues in Public Policy.

“Everyone is pressed for time,” Green said. “And I don’t have spare time to find the gender-neutral bathrooms half of a mile away.”

Several groups have pushed for additional gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, including the Bathroom Brigade, a group of transgender and gender-nonconforming students and their allies who have held protests in buildings such as Dwinelle and Evans halls.

Sben Korsh, a campus architecture history graduate student and member of the Bathroom Brigade, said that while the administration and university have both shown support for all-gender facilities, they have not followed through on implementing the policies that have been recommended and approved.

“It’s obviously a complicated thing and costs money,” said Leslie Salzinger, a campus associate professor of gender and women’s studies. “But it’s still the case on the Berkeley campus that if you’re trans, there’s no comfortable place to go.”

Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, said that funding difficulties make it hard to implement such policies right away but that the “spirit and action of this is in the right direction.”

“It’s good to have the president say explicitly that she’s interested in having this happen and is in support of it,” he said. “I think it will move things along faster than they were already moving.”

Contact Ethan Walker at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ethannwalker.