By Gabriela Salvador and Caitlin Sawicki
William Paterson University’s newest change embraces diversity of a sometimes overlooked nature.
The campus is now equipped with single-use all-gender bathrooms, which can be used by any individual regardless of gender identity or expression.
“There are eight all-gender bathrooms, primarily in the science buildings, but also in Hobart Manor and the Shea Center for Performing Arts,” said Miki Cammarata, vice president for Student Development.
The issue was brought to her attention by Mel Passler, the president of the Pride Alliance, “over one year ago in a larger discussion about how we serve LGBT students,” said Cammarata. Cammarata also consulted with “leaders of student development, senior members of administration and finance, and the president’s cabinet.”
“The decision process itself took weeks, but the entire process from start to finish truthfully took about one year,” she said. “But, we started from scratch and created the foundation for going forward.”
Dr. Arlene Holpp Scala, the chair of the Women’s & Gender Studies Department, is pleased with the addition.
“I am so glad to see that we now have them in Science Hall East, and I would like to see more on campus,” said Holpp Scala. “I think that having these bathrooms is a progressive move on the part of WPU, and I think that many straight and LGBT students will welcome them. Students will still have the option of bathrooms designated as ‘women’ and ‘men.’”
Research and planning was a priority for the project, according to Cammarata. This included finding “design standards, appropriate language, and symbols” for signage and identifying public single-use bathrooms on campus.
“We looked for single-use bathrooms where only one individual can use the bathroom at a time. We identified single-use bathrooms which were truly public to start with,” she said.
The research also led to the choice of using the term “all-gender” to describe the new bathrooms, according to Cammarata.
“The term ‘all-gender’ is used because it is more progressive, and implies that there are more than two genders,” said Cammarata. “When you have male and female bathrooms, you’re buying into a gender binary system. Gender nonconforming and transgender individuals don’t wish to or can’t be identified by a particular gender.”
Despite months of research into standards for all-gender bathroom signs, Cammarata says that there is still room for improvement with the signage for the on the bathrooms.
“The signs aren’t the same across campus as a result of logistical issues,” said Cammarata. “Limitations to signage are currently being addressed.”
Cammarata hopes that this change will be welcomed by the campus community.
“I hope it will make individuals who didn’t feel counted or safe to feel that way,” said Cammarata. “I hope this change will help individuals feel included and safe, and raise awareness.”
Some students have not heard of the all-gender bathrooms, but were still in support of them.
“I don’t think about it much. It’s just a bathroom. I think it shouldn’t matter what gender you are if you want to use a bathroom,” said freshman Amanda Happel.
Joe Miller, a senior, thinks they would be good for LGBT students.
“It could give those transitioning a sense of comfort and alone time,” he said.
“I think it’s cool,” said freshman Alexa Polo. “It could be a more comfortable place for those who are not comfortable using gender-specific bathrooms.” She also thinks that having at least one all-gender bathroom per building would be a good idea.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly used the male pronoun in reference to Miki Cammarata.