Faculty Senate approves resolution to expand all-gender restroom access on campus


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

The all-gender bathroom in Norris University Center. Faculty Senate members voted Wednesday to approve a resolution calling for more all-gender bathrooms on campus.

Nicole Markus and Peter Ryan

Northwestern’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution Wednesday to increase access to all-gender bathrooms on campus.

The action passed the Senate with a 96% majority vote and follows years of student activism. It was initially recommended in 2019 by the University’s Gender Queer, Non-Binary and Trans Task Force. The Social Responsibility Committee, with input from Communication Prof. Kyle Henry, wrote and proposed the resolution.

The resolution calls on the University to update campus maps to indicate the location of every all-gender restroom on campus, and to convert remaining single-occupancy bathrooms to all-gender bathrooms. Additionally, the resolution asks the University to create a strategy to establish additional all-gender restrooms in places on campus currently lacking them. 

Northwestern added its first all-gender restroom in Norris University Center in 2014, but several areas on campus still lack accessible bathrooms. In 2019, the Queer Pride Graduate Student Association highlighted inclusive restrooms as a primary area of concern.

Technological Institute, the largest academic building on campus, currently has only two demarcated all-gender restrooms, according to McCormick Prof. Luis Amaral.

Illinois General Assembly HB 3589, adopted in January, stipulates that all single-occupancy restrooms in the state must be demarcated as restrooms without indicating a specific gender.

The resolution asks the University to complete the majority of the action items by the end of winter 2022. The University should release its strategy for creating additional all-gender restrooms by summer 2022.

Medill Prof. Ceci Rodgers called this timeline “aspirational.”

Students have lobbied hard for access. Anonymous School of Education and Social Policy students posted all-gender bathroom signs throughout Annenberg Hall in fall 2019. Graduate Communication students posted signs in Annie May Swift Hall to amplify the effort in winter 2020. That same winter, students and faculty also met to press against the delays. 

During Wildcat Welcome, residents of the second floor of the Communications Residential College agreed to convert the second male bathroom into an all-gender bathroom labeled “beings.” The move created a more gender-inclusive floor and also happened because only one floor resident identifies as a man, CRC President Riley Boksenbaum said.

The sign was taken down during an inspection of the college’s restrooms because CRC does not have an NU all-gender designation, Boksenbaum said.

“The gendered sign is not great,” Boksenbaum said. “It forces people to assign themselves a category that they might not actually identify with, but we are not allowed to label it otherwise.”

English, history and religion Prof. Barbara Newman raised concerns about the cost of the project. In response, Amaral pointed to recent donations related to athletics.

“We are talking about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on renovating a stadium that works perfectly fine,” Amaral said. “Talking about the cost of changing a few bathrooms should not even be brought up.”

In response to Faculty Senate questions about athletic spending, Athletic Director Derrick Gragg defended the University’s decision to raise coach Pat Fitzgerald’s salary while simultaneously laying off about 100 food service workers in fall 2020. Gragg said Fitzgerald’s raise kept his salary competitive with similarly skilled coaches.

Faculty Senate ended the meeting by discussing a proposed amendment to its bylaws. The amendment seeks to terminate the Faculty Assembly’s legislative authority. Due to time constraints, this item received limited discussion and failed to proceed to vote.


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Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

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Twitter: @therealpeterry1

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