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Old Chapel announces all-gender restrooms

By Middlebury Campus

Old Chapel announced the upcoming establishment of all-gender restrooms in non-residential buildings on campus in an email to students, faculty and staff sent on March 16.

The conversion will begin this summer and is estimated to be complete by the beginning of the 2011- 2012 academic year.

Old Chapel aims to make at least one restoom in every non-residential building gender-nuetral - Courtesy

Administrators explained that the project will be budget-neutral and will not involve any structural renovation; the conversion will take place by changing signage. The cost of new signs will be financed by the existing Facilities Services’ budget designated for maintenance. Because many single-stall restrooms on campus are already all-gender facilities, the cost is estimated to be relatively low.

Jenifer Herrera, special assistant to the dean of the College and senior adviser for diversity initiatives, applauded the project’s commitment to greater institutional diversity.

“This project is about creating options for the diverse needs of our community members — students, faculty, staff and visitors,” wrote Herrera in an email. “[The College is] working towards a more inclusive environment by specifically providing equal access to facilities regardless of gender identification and expression or sexual orientation.”

Special Projects Coordinator for Vice President of the Administration Sarah Franco explained that student input also contributed to the project.

“The students involved in this project provided the administration with advice about how we could best serve the needs of the transgender members of our community with respect to restroom use,” wrote Franco in an email. “We incorporated their ideas into the proposal as appropriate, taking into account that there are others at Middlebury who require or prefer access to single-sex restrooms.”

The implementation of the project will give a voice to both supporters and opponents of the conversion.

“In the fall, we will begin conversations with those who work in buildings without any single-stall restrooms to determine if one multi-stall restroom in their area could be selected for conversion to an all-gender facility,” wrote Franco. “We would like to give everyone ample opportunity to offer input on how a facility in their building may change.”

Franco added that this consideration of opinions could delay the process of conversion.

“It may not be until late 2011 or early 2012 that signs on a few multi-stall restrooms across campus could change,” wrote Franco.

The decision to implement all-gender bathrooms came as a result of a recommendation published in the spring of 2010 by an ad-hoc study group examining student life issues faced by transgender students on campus. Herrera explained that the group made other recommendations such as addressing housing and roommate assignments, developing customized coding in the BannerWeb system to allow for the identification of preferred gender and providing awareness training for student life staff on issues facing transgender students.

According to Herrera, many of these recommendations have already been addressed by the administration.

In December 2010, the Community Council passed a resolution implementing All-Gender Housing as an option for sophomores, juniors and seniors for the 2011-2012 academic year.  Students will be able to select roommates of all genders during the upcoming room draw process.

In addition, Herrera wrote that steps have been taken by Library and Information Services and Public Safety to accommodate transgender students when listing their preferred gender for the College directory, email accounts and ID cards.

In January, Lark Mulligan ’11 and Viveka Ray-Mazumder ’11 along with Dot Brauer, director of LGBTQA services at the University of Vermont, offered a professional development workshop on gender identity and expression to faculty and staff.

Mulligan, Ray-Mazumder and other students have recently formed a Gender Council designed to address gender-related issues on campus.

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