Student Council announced in a Feb. 7 email update to the University student body that all bathrooms in the McCormick Road first-year dormitories currently undergoing renovations — Page, Emmet, Echols and Humphreys — will be re-classified as gender-neutral. It is currently unclear if the Metcalf and Lefevre dorms — which will be renovated during the 2019-2010 school year — will have the same bathroom classification.
This statement comes as an update on a multiphase project that began in , which includes the renovation of the McCormick Road dorms. While the renovation project will with new community spaces, bedrooms, electrical and plumbing systems, air conditioning systems and elevators, little mention has been made towards the addition of gender-neutral bathrooms in dorms until the email announcement.
Currently, the completed renovations in Kent, Dabney and Bonnycastle dorms do not have gender-neutral bathrooms. While none of the bathrooms have urinals or gender-specific signage — therefore making them potentially usable by all genders — residents only have swipe access to the bathrooms on their gender-specific halls. However, there are single-stall bathrooms in the dorms that can be used by all genders without swipe access.
Andrew Williams, a second-year Architecture student and chair of the Student Council Buildings and Grounds committee, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that the bathrooms in the newly renovated dorms will also not have urinals. However, it is currently unclear whether swipe access will remain limited.
“The renovated McCormick dorms will no longer have urinals on every floor like the old dorms have,” Williams said.
Alex Cintron, a fourth-year College student and Student Council President, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that to his knowledge, Student Council was not directly involved with the installation of the gender-neutral bathrooms.
However, Cintron is hopeful that the establishment of gender-neutral bathrooms in first-year dorms will be the first step in paving the way towards implementing gender-neutral on-Grounds housing — a key component of his platform during his campaign for Student Council president — adding that conversations around the topic will be pursued in the future. Prior to 2016, all on-Grounds housing was separated by gender, and the option of living in mixed-gender housing became available to students living in upperclassmen apartments through a by Housing and Residence Life and the Queer Student Union.
“I can say that this is welcome news and a good step for the possibility of open housing in first year dorms in the future,” Cintron said. “Our Diversity Engagement Committee will be working on having conversations with administration on gender-neutral housing.”
The bathrooms in the newly renovated dorms will not be the first gender-neutral bathrooms on Grounds. LGBTQ Student Services website currently provides an interactive map listing all of the gender-neutral bathrooms on Grounds, the Corner, Downtown and nearby areas for students to reference. According to the map, there are currently 32 gender-neutral bathrooms on Grounds in locations including Ruffner Hall, Campbell Hall, Minor Hall, 1515 and West Range Cafe. Students are able to submit corrections or updates to the map through .
The Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights at the University defines an all-gender restroom to refer only to “single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms that may be used by anyone.” However, the organization also notes that inconsistencies do exist in representation of these restrooms, specifically in the varying symbols and wordings. The common representation for such bathrooms on Grounds were established to “[utilize] a symbol for a toilet instead of gender symbols to make it clear that anyone may use it. The sign also includes the universal accessibility symbol if it is an accessible restroom.”
It is currently unclear if the new bathrooms will have the appropriate signage or if all on-Grounds housing locations will eventually shift to establishing gender-neutral bathrooms. On the website for the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights, it is specified that gender neutral signs are available for purchase by facilities, but existing facilities are not required by the University to change. Facilities Management declined to comment on the bathroom update for this story.
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said that Housing and Residence Life determines whether or not a bathroom would be added or reclassified as gender-neutral.
“Housing and Residence Life evaluates the feasibility of adding or reclassifying bathrooms as gender neutral to dorms on an ongoing basis — whether they are slated for renovation or not,” de Bruyn said. “It depends on a number of factors (configuration, number of stalls, etc.).”
The Office of Housing and Residence Life and Facilities Management declined a request for comment on the update.