OSU expands gender-inclusive facilities

OSU has at least 207 gender-inclusive restrooms in at least 75  buildings, according to Gabriel Merrell, the director of access and affirmative action with Equal Opportunity and Access.

Efforts continue to improve restroom availability.

Currently, at least 207 publicly accessible gender-inclusive restrooms in at least 75 buildings are on the Oregon State University. The university is continuing to take steps to expand gender inclusivity in restroom facilities throughout campus for the new academic year.

These gender-inclusive restrooms, which are available to people of any gender, have been installed in many new locations, and standing university policy requires these facilities to be established in new and renovated building construction projects, according to Gabriel Merrell, the director of access and affirmative action with Equal Opportunity and Access. This policy has aided the expansion of gender-inclusive restrooms for years, and its progress continues in the new academic year. 

Over the summer, 41 existing single-user restrooms were converted from gender-specific to gender-inclusive facilities, according to Merrell. The list of restrooms that could be easily converted was developed through a survey of the campus conducted by students involved with the Pride Center and the Coalition of Graduate Employees in the spring. 

According to Cindy Konrad, the assistant director of the Pride Center, an updated campus map on the OSU website now includes information about the locations of gender-inclusive restrooms to make it easier for people to find the appropriate facilities for them.

“For some trans and nonbinary people, especially those who are questioned or receive negative responses when they enter gendered spaces, gender-inclusive restrooms feel safer,” Konrad said in an email. “Gender-inclusive restrooms also are helpful for people with children who don’t feel safe sending their children into a restroom alone.”

Teresita Alvarez-Cortez, associate director of University Housing and Dining Services, says UHDS is making efforts to expand access to gender-inclusive restrooms in residence halls. Last academic year, one residence hall made a gender-inclusive multi-stall restroom available, and this year these inclusive facilities have been expanded to approximately two gender-inclusive multi-stall restrooms in each residence hall. 

“Ultimately, this is about meeting the needs of all residents and creating communities that are more inclusive,” Alvarez-Cortez said in an email. 

Some parents have expressed concerns about residents of different genders using the same restroom and possibly not residing on the floor with their preferred facilities, according to Alvarez-Cortez. 

“One misconception was that students have to use particular restrooms on the floor they reside,” Alvarez-Cortez said in an email. “In fact, any resident can use any restroom of their choosing in their building.”

According to Merrell, policy changes have already facilitated the expansion of additional inclusive facilities, and will continue to do so in the future. 

“Since we have built this into the construction standards, when we renovate or build new buildings there is automatically going to be a single-user restroom in the facility somewhere—at least one,” Merrell said. 

Many recently renovated buildings have even exceeded these baseline standards, according to Merrell. For instance, the Learning Innovation Center has gender-inclusive facilities on every floor. 

In the process of converting restrooms to be more gender-inclusive, it has also been possible to expand accessibility for people with disabilities, according to Merrell. These efforts work well together because they are both part of establishing infrastructure that embodies the ideal of universal design.

“Universal design is a concept that was developed for people with disabilities in the built environment—in buildings—and the concept is that we should design products, facilities, things to be usable by everyone without the need for adaptation or specialized design,” Merrell said. “The idea of universal design is intersectional—it’s not just about disability, it’s about all individuals.“

According to Alvarez-Cortez, listening to feedback from students will be one of the most important steps in the ongoing effort to expand inclusivity for people of all genders on campus.