College Council Approves Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms
Issue   |   Wed, 04/29/2015 - 01:35

Amherst will install gender-inclusive signs for single-occupancy bathrooms across campus, College Council and Facilities reported last week. The council, chaired by Professor of Religion Maria Heim, voted unanimously to approve new signs proposed by students.

The student initiative for new signage began at a Queer Resource Center meeting in January. Queer Resource Center director Angie Tissi, Saren Deardorff ’17 and Johnathan Appel ’16 introduced the idea to the meeting, where people were discussing gender inclusivity at the college.

“If you look at peer institutions, you see that they’re leagues ahead of us in terms of gender and trans-inclusivity and intentionality in creating those resources,” Appel said. “I didn’t really know what [a gender-inclusive bathroom] was, or what form that would take, because our building codes are really hard to get around, but I knew that that was something in which we wanted to make progress toward an eventual goal.”

Since Appel sits on College Council, those involved in the initiative agreed to propose the idea there. According to Heim, the council vote, which concluded unanimously, was brief.

“We hope that gender-inclusive signage will make Amherst buildings more accessible and welcoming for all members of our community,” Heim said, speaking for College Council. She said that vocal support for the initiative also came from the Office of the Provost.

Following the approval of the council, Heim, Tissi, Appel and Deardorff met with Peter Root, director of facilities, to work out the details of the initiative.

“At that time the five of us agreed that restrooms across campus that are single-occupancy and/or currently used as gender-neutral restrooms anyway would get the explicit gender-inclusive signage,” Heim said.

Some restrooms in residential buildings have already been designated as gender-neutral or gender-inclusive by residential counselors. The upcoming change in signage is specific to single-occupancy bathrooms across campus. Current college policy already states that these bathrooms are gender-inclusive, so the role of the new signs is to make this clearer to members of the community. Accordingly, there will be no structural changes to the bathrooms, and those involved in the change have said that initiative’s main purpose is to further gender-inclusivity at Amherst through signage.

Implementation will begin in the fall and continue through the school year. Designs have been chosen, and College Council has put the project in the hands of Facilities going forward.