Northwestern must act now on all-gender bathrooms, some Faculty Senate members say


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

The all-gender bathroom in Norris University Center. Faculty Senate members advocated Wednesday for universal access to all-gender restrooms.

Isabel Funk, Assistant Campus Editor

City policies and a lack of University action have put the push for universal all-gender bathroom access on hold — and some Faculty Senate members emphasized at a Wednesday meeting that Northwestern must act now. 

A Gender Queer, Non-Binary and Trans Task Force report published in winter 2020 recommended ensuring access to all-gender bathrooms to make the University more gender-inclusive. 

Students have lobbied hard for access, including through anonymous School of Education and Social Policy student action in fall 2019 and graduate School of Communication student activism in winter 2020. That same winter, students and faculty also met to press against the delays. The University has yet to meet student and faculty demands. 

“We’re looking for movement on this from the central administration to put some resources behind what is probably one of the most visible and bare minimum key recommendations to make the campus more inclusive for our gender non-binary and trans community,” Senator and RTVF Prof. Kyle Henry said.

The University has not conducted any surveys to determine where all-gender bathrooms are available, said Henry, the faculty outreach representative for LGBT employee affinity group Out Network. 

Henry’s own department in Annie May Swift Hall does not have any all-gender bathrooms, he added. 

Campus goals to ensure all-gender bathrooms are widely accessible have been “stymied” by Evanston’s City Council, Molecular Biosciences Prof. and Faculty Senate President Robert Holmgren said. Evanston building codes mandate set minimum numbers of male and female bathrooms in each structure.  

Henry acknowledged the codes are preventing the University from making progress, but said students should not be responsible for lobbying the city.

“We would like creative problem solving from the central administration,” Henry said. “(But) they’re like, ‘Our hands are tied.’ Unfortunately… that conflicts with the key recommendation of a University-sponsored task force for a gender inclusive environment, (which) is a bathroom.”

Other senators, including Steven Adams, Luis Amaral and David Schoenbrun, expressed disappointment that the University has not provided a plan for implementing the task force’s recommendation. 

The Social Responsibility Committee will review the resolution and report on it during the next Senate meeting.

“I’m thinking about the kind of othering that can be baked into architecture,” Adams said. “We need to create a culture here at Northwestern where we can do things to address issues of marginalized people before we are made to, before we are forced.”

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Twitter: @isabeldfunk

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