Looking for a sign of changing times on campus?
Look no further than the residence hall bathroom.
Spurred by student activism, institutional initiatives and legal challenges to provide safe and equitable facilities for transgender and non-gender-identified students, more than 200 U.S. colleges and universities now offer some form of gender-neutral, or all-gender, bathrooms and/or housing on campus.
The bathroom represents a natural evolution in designing and operating student life buildings that reflect institutional values of inclusion and community. Student residences and other buildings must address the very real need for privacy, safety and security that impact a student’s psychological and physical well-being—regardless of who those students are or where they come from. At its most basic level, that means ensuring a safe space to attend to the routines of daily life.
“It will be hard for campuses to not have a clear strategy, even if it takes them time to implement it,” says Anita Moran, FAIA, Principal at TreanorHL. Especially now that a Dear Colleague advisory letter issued by the Obama Administration begins to position the issue with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination by sex.
“Students have the right to use the bathroom they identify with. That is part of creating a safe, secure, comfortable space on campus where they can belong,” says James Reittinger, Associate Principal and Director of Design at TreanorHL. “Thoughtful building design plays a significant role in providing the privacy, safety, accessibility, and social interaction that helps students succeed and develop socially, personally and academically.”
How can campuses address the issue? By balancing design, programming, policy and campus culture: