Gender-neutral bathrooms stalled due to lack of funding

Nashwa Bawab

UT has no new plans to put gender-neutral restrooms in already-existing buildings on campus because of a lack of funds, according to Ixchel Rosal, director at the Gender and Sexuality Center.

UT currently has 32 existing gender-neutral bathrooms available to students, the locations of which can be found on the GSC website. University policy requires any new building being constructed on campus to make a gender-neutral bathroom available for every five floors that a structure has, according to Rosal. Rosal said the Gender and Sexuality Center worked with facilities to get the gender-neutral restrooms on campus and will continue to work to get more installed.

“I think, in an ideal situation, certainly every building would have at least one all-gender bathroom,” Rosal said. “But I’m also aware that it’s a process, so I would say that we are making steady progress on getting to that ideal situation, but there is still more work to be done.”

About five years ago, the Project Management and Construction Services Department at UT converted many single-occupant bathrooms to gender-neutral bathrooms, according to Laurie Lentz, manager of University Operations Communications. The University does not use the word ‘unisex’ on gender-neutral restrooms signs because of signage rules, according to Lentz.

“[The department] converted a number of single-occupant restrooms to Gender Neutral designation,” Lentz said in an email. “This typically involved adding an indicator privacy latch set that would indicate whether the restroom was occupied, a sanitary napkin disposal unit, and a room sign depicting an international symbol for both a man and a women, with a room name of RESTROOM.”

In 2014, Austin City Council passed a provision in favor of gender-neutral restrooms. The measure would require businesses to change all single-occupancy bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms for anyone to use.

Daniel Chapman, Student Government Advocacy Policy Director, said the specific law was something he knew about when he decided more should be done to accommodate disabled students and students of all gender identities­—despite current UT policy regarding gender-neutral restrooms. Chapman said he wants to bring up a resolution to Student Government sometime during the semester addressing the issue.

“Even if a building does have a gender-neutral restroom, it’s usually one every five floors, which is still very inconvenient for someone who wants to use that,” Chapman said. “We want to kind of bring that lack of implementation into the spotlight and make sure that the administration does more to handle that issue. A good end goal for the administration is you have to have a campus where people — regardless of their gender identity — can feel safe in entering any restroom on campus, where people don’t feel harassed or feel like they’re being discriminated against.”