Students dwelling in Ohio State residence halls will soon be able to request to live on a floor with only gender-neutral bathrooms.
Park-Stradley Hall is slated to have two floors solely equipped with gender-neutral bathrooms next year depending on demand, Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said Thursday.
Gender-neutral bathrooms have a common sink area with multiple separate rooms off of that area that each hold a toilet and a shower.
Students will be able to request to live on those Park-Stradley floors in their housing contracts, Isaacs said. He said if demand is great, the administration might consider adding a third floor, but if demand is less than expected, OSU might eliminate a floor from the plans.
“It’s not a remodel at Park-Stradley, just a redesignation, so (there’s) no cost,” Isaacs said in an email.
Park-Stradley currently has two gender-neutral bathrooms on every floor. It is one of three residence halls to include gender-neutral bathrooms.
Smith-Steeb has two on every floor, and Scholars West has three gender-neutral bathrooms in each wing.
Demand for these facilities has not been huge thus far, but Student Life aims to accommodate all students and their needs, Isaacs said on the phone.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are also located throughout campus in various buildings, but one OSU official said it’s hard to say how many there are.
“We don’t specifically track gender-neutral restrooms in Facilities Operations and Development or Physical Planning and Real Estate, so it’s a little hard to pinpoint a date when they began being installed and (we) don’t have a complete list of buildings that have gender-neutral restrooms,” OSU Administration and Planning spokeswoman Lindsay Komlanc said in an email.
She emailed The Lantern a list of 16 buildings that have gender-neutral bathrooms that was based on recent projects and everyday maintenance work. The list included the Ohio Union, RPAC, Adventure Recreation Center and McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.
Sidney Wilson, a third-year in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said OSU’s campus currently does not have enough gender-neutral bathrooms.
“To have a few gender neutral bathrooms, far apart, is not fully inclusive because in every building there are a lot of binary (male or female) bathrooms,” she said.
Komlanc said students, staff and faculty should expect to see more gender-neutral bathrooms in years to come.
“Our building design standards require that we add at least one gender-neutral restroom in all new buildings and, when feasible, when existing buildings are renovated,” Komlanc said.
These guidelines are present to hold Ohio State’s commitment “to providing a physical environment where students, faculty, staff, and visitors can live, learn, teach, research and be successful in their daily business,” Komlanc said.
The costs for installing these restrooms vary from project to project, she said.
“In general, gender-neutral restrooms can cost more per fixture as they are usually limited to one of each fixture type — like sinks, toilets, etc., whereas other restrooms we may be able to take advantage of cost reductions for buying multiple types of each fixture,” Komlanc said.
Funding sources also vary, and sometimes multiple funding sources are used on one project. Whatever the case, “no project moves forward to construction without first having a funding source identified and approved through the approval process,” Komlanc said.
Last Spring Semester, the doors to the bathrooms’ common sink area were removed in Park-Stradley because of feedback from residents who said they would “feel more secure if there was no divider between the hallways and that area,” Isaacs told The Lantern in an email at the time.
Multiple sex crimes were reported in Park-Stradley during Fall Semester 2012, one of which was a reported rape that allegedly occurred in a Park-Stradley bathroom, and at the time, some students speculated the doors’ removal was linked to the sex crimes. Isaacs, however, said there was no direct link between the two.
Ellen Zwick, a third-year in molecular genetics, said she likes the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see gender-neutral bathrooms in the Union even. It’s a great step in the right direction, I think, but there is more work that needs to be done,” Zwick said in an email.
Wilson said gender-neutral bathrooms are important to have in all public spaces.
“By not having gender-neutral bathrooms available, it discriminates against people who don’t choose to be in the typical gender binary,” Wilson said. “Also, the fear of going to the restroom should not be anything anyone ever has to go through.”
Ali Paracha, a third-year in political science, said there are both positives and negatives to men and women sharing a bathroom area.
“I think gender neutral bathrooms are completely an individual’s choice. Some people are comfortable and some prople are not. I personally prefer gender neutral bathrooms, mainly because it doesnt really bother me,” Paracha said.
Paracha said having women around might make men cut down on pranks and crude humor in the bathroom, but he could also see the situation going the other way.
“Maybe if girls are around guys might behave a little. However, some … might be even more offensive around girls,” he said.
Other students, like Rachel Dougherty, a second-year in atmospheric sciences, did not know gender-neutral bathrooms existed on campus.
Dougherty said if presented with the option of using a gender-neutral bathroom, she would not use one because she is used to and feels more comfortable with the typical women-only restroom.
She does, however, support the idea of having the facilities available.
“If I have the option to be comfortable in a bathroom, then everyone else should, too,” Dougherty said.
Frank Atkinson, a first-year in business, said he, too, was unaware there are gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
Atkinson said the concept seems strange but he understands why the facilities would be desirable.
“Having it around and using it more would make it second nature and just as normal as the men and women’s restrooms are to everyone,” he said.