Five campus restrooms have been redesignated as gender neutral to allow students and staff to use whichever bathroom they identify with regardless of their birth sex.
Southwestern is joining colleges across the state in compliance with Assembly Bill 1266, the “Co-Ed Bathroom Bill.” Gender-neutral restrooms are also an accreditation requirement for community colleges across the country under Title IX of the 1965 Higher Education Act that “protects any person from sex based discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived sex, gender identity, and/or gender expression.”
SWC has recently fulfilled the requirement with five gender-neutral restrooms in each quadrant of campus that have been designated by Director of Facilities Charlotte Zolezzi.
They are located in the 550 building, 1400 building on the first floor, 620 LRC/Library second and third floors and 620 telemedia building, said Zolezzi. New signs were posted earlier this month.
Dr.Guadalupe Corona, director of Equity Diversity and Inclusion, said American culture is evolving.
“There’s a changing in society and its norms, about how we engage,” she said. “I think it’s important whenever we create an inclusive environment, that we also do the education behind it so that there is no misunderstanding of why it’s being done.”
Professor of History Laura Ryan said she believes the restroom located in the 550 building was poorly conceived. Previous to being named a gender-neutral restroom, it was a women’s staff bathroom.
“The bathroom in 550 A can’t handle the numbers of people going into it,” she said. “I had to constantly call our school secretary last year to have the bathroom fixed because it overflowed continuously. At least once every two weeks the toilet got stuffed up and no one could use it.”
Ryan emailed Zolezzi with her concerns and suggested an alternative.
“The men’s staff bathroom next to 540A has a urinal and a toilet,” she said. “That bathroom is better suited to be gender-neutral.”
This restroom is in an area that receives more foot traffic and is next to vending machines, increasing visibility to staff and students, said Ryan.
Olajuwon Tatum, 22, a theater major, said restrooms are a safety issue.
“These bathrooms are a way to make our campus safe for everyone, because not everyone identifies as male or female,” he said. “They passed a law saying that if you identify as male or female then you can use that bathroom, but it still might be uncomfortable for some people. So if it is labeled gender-neutral then it’s like ‘Okay I can use this bathroom because it’s safe.’”
Alan Luna, director of public relations for SWC’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club, said the administration has not reached out to the club regarding the existence or whereabouts of these restrooms.
“I don’t know of any specific gender-neutral bathrooms available on campus,” he said. “I feel like the school should make more of an effort to let people know that they’re there, because nobody knows.”
Tatum suggested that the administration and ASO work together to promote the gender-neutral restrooms to students and faculty.
“They could email us about something that is actually relevant to our lives,” Tatum said.
“They could put it on the school site. We are now a LGBTQ positive campus, you could find gender-neutral bathrooms here, here and here.’ Especially for the students who are coming from the high school and don’t know anything about the campus. It should be in the orientation.”
Cheryl Norton, an English Professor and GSA advisor, said the Safe Zone program being implemented at SWC should highlight the restrooms. Safe Zone is a recent program provided at SWC that provides a safe area for the LGBTQ population on campus. This program provides training by The Gay Alliance to all who volunteer, on becoming an LGBTQ ally.
“There are these little stickers (staff) put in our office windows,” she said. “People who have been through the training talked about putting that same sticker on our website with a link that says SWC is a Safe Zone. Meaning it’s LGBTQ friendly and there are gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, when you see this sticker you can talk to this professor.”
Norton praised the establishment of the gender-neutral restrooms and the college’s support of its LGBTQ students.
“This is a way to make our campus more of a welcoming community for everyone,” said
Norton. “Isn’t that what colleges should be?”