Gender-neutral bathrooms are planned for installation this coming fall semester, wrapping up a project that has been in the works since last spring.
To Vice President of Student Association (SA) Eve Stern, there is more to gender-neutral facilities than just creating a restroom that is usable by both men and women.
“I’m fighting for gender-neutral bathrooms and housing because this creates a statement and environment on our campus; a welcoming, progressive, open-minded, accepting and conscious environment,” said Stern. “Most people aren’t aware of this idea of gender neutrality, the idea that we don’t need to place a gender on everything, but instead to just live as humans.”
Stern also said that gender-neutral bathrooms create a safe and comfortable environment.
According to John McEnrue, director of facilities design and construction, there will be 13 total gender-neutral restrooms on campus.
Bathrooms will be located in Jacobson Faculty Tower, Haggerty Administration Building, Hasbrouck Dining Hall, the Health Center, Old Library, Resnick Engineering Hall, South Faculty Building, Southside House, Van Den Berg Hall and the residence halls as they are renovated.
“Only single fixture bathrooms can be used as gender-neutral. Multi-fixture bathrooms cannot be made gender-neutral. Bathrooms that can be gender neutral are in the process of getting new signage, so that all bathrooms will look the same,” said Stern. “As we are in the process of gutting residence halls, a gender neutral bathroom is in the plan for each one.”
Finding a place to put them is not the only challenge faced with implementing gender neutrality on campus, however. Signs demarcating the facilities as “neutral” have to be agreed upon, not only by SA and administrators on campus, but with the law.
“As of now, [the sign] will be a bathroom symbol of a man and a woman with ‘restroom’ underneath. However, I am fighting for it to say ‘gender neutral restroom,’” said Stern. “There are certain laws with bathrooms with what can be on the sign and there may not be a type of signage available with this included.”
Despite the labeling, gender-neutral bathrooms have paved the way for both students, faculty and administration to consider the direction SUNY New Paltz is headed.
“The idea of gender-neutral housing has been brought to the attention of the administration on behalf of myself and the SA E-board. Design and construction said themselves that the idea of gender-neutral housing is very doable,” said Stern.
McEnrue said there are no immediate plans for gender-neutral housing on campus.
Still, graduate student Bibina Cordova, said there are some things that need to be thought out before gender-neutral housing can be seriously considered.
“I hear reports of inappropriate behavior, especially male to female. That would worry me. But again, these are things that I’m sure the people that are behind it will take into consideration, and it will take some time getting used to. And with anything, you’re going to have some trials before it goes right,” said Cordova.
Cordova said the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms is a step in the right direction.
“The only thing that would worry me with safety, is the age that we have, young adolescents, it’s going to take some time to really understand what it’s about,”