University housing considers gender-inclusive options

By Jane Lee

With two protests that occurred last year for trans-inclusive healthcare, Stephanie Skora, senior in LAS and president of Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support, said in a previous interview with The Daily Illini that she would have hated to protest again because there should not be a need to protest every time something needs to be done.

In late January, University Housing surveyed Allen Hall residents and gave students an option to implement gender-inclusive restrooms for a weeklong pilot program.

“Allen Hall is a very diverse dorm. It’s a very queer-friendly dorm,” Skora said. “That’s why this is the best place to really start. If you are queer identified and you come to U of I, you’ll have heard about Allen Hall.”

Kirsten Ruby, associate director of housing for communications and marketing, said in a previous interview that a 75 percent threshold was needed for housing to run a trial of gender-inclusive restrooms on one floor of Allen. The survey closed Jan. 30.

“Right now we are just exploring. We’ve heard, anecdotally, students say we would like these options and students say we are interested in these options, but we don’t want to just take one or two or ten people saying this,” Ruby said.

The threshold was not met in February, but Housing continued to reach out to students at Allen Hall and held floor meetings to generate further interest about gender-inclusivity. The increased efforts eventually allowed the housing department to implement a new gender-inclusive dorm plan for fall 2015.

Sarah Mowitz, senior in FAA and president of Women of Pride, said in a previous interview she understands why students may be uncomfortable with gender-neutrality, but it is important for students to know what it means to be gender-neutral.

“I think to be pro gender-neutral living is to, usually, have kind of a comprehensive understanding of (being transgender) and to truly understand what it means to be a student that lives outside the gender binary,” Mowitz said.

Ruby said the goal in implementing gender-neutral restrooms is to make housing and the University more inclusive.

She said University Housing decided to create gender-neutral restrooms in Allen 1 North, a wing on the first floor of Allen Hall. The dorm will be co-ed by door, meaning men and women will be next door to each other.

Additionally, the first floor in Saunders of the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence hall will also be co-ed by door.

The bathrooms in Saunders will not have multiple shower stalls, but instead have multiple single-use bathrooms on each floor. Ruby said there is little cost in different privacy installments.

Mowitz said the new gender-inclusive plan will be a form of education for students who don’t fully understand gender-inclusivity.

“I think it’s really great. I think it’s something that is very, very necessary and I think it’s the next step in (resident) life,” Mowitz said. “Honestly, I think it’s coming at a very good time so I’m very happy about it.”

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