UT approves construction of gender-neutral bathrooms in Burdine

Laura Morales

The University approved a gender-inclusive bathroom in Burdine as part of the hall’s renovations after a year of faculty advocacy. 

The President’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Initiatives advocated for the bathroom, and had to get the University’s Financial and Administrative Services and the chairs of other departments’ approval, said Ann Cvetkovich, director of the LGBTQ studies program. 

“The simple effort to get a gender-inclusive bathroom in Burdine has taken a year, and we are still not done with getting the budgets and the constructions plans in place,” said Cvetkovich, who lead the initiative along with the Gender and Sexuality Center. “The work is slow, but expressions of support from both the administration and from students are important.” 

Construction will start in the summer of 2019, and the funds for the conversion come from the allocated renovation budget. Converting one of the multi-stall bathrooms to a single-stall, gender-inclusive bathroom will cost around $115,000, Cvetkovich said. 

The committee’s efforts are part of the larger University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, a multi-committee plan adopted by the University President’s Office in spring 2017. The committee’s main areas of focus are housing, recruitment and expansion of professional development opportunities for LGBTQ students. 

Liz Elsen, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, crafted the recommendations for a gender-inclusive campus based on what students said they need. 

“The biggest facilitator of these updates seems to be that the campus office that oversees these processes is on board and motivated to make these changes,” Elsen said. “Each office we partner with knows that these are the things that our students have said that they think would make their campus experience feel safer and more inclusive.”

The committee created staff ally training and free preferred name changes on UT ID cards along with the bathroom changes. Undeclared freshman Evan McClain is a transgender male and said he felt welcomed on campus.

“Being here is such a feeling of being at home,” McClain said. “Back at my home was such a hostile environment where I wasn’t even out. Like, it was not an option to be out. Being here is like I’ve just settled in, and it’s comfortable, and I don’t feel pressure to switch between identities. I feel safe here.”