Two multi-stall bathrooms were changed to all-gender restrooms on the second floor of Buntrock Commons on March 2. Director of Equity and Inclusion María C. Pabón Gautier, a lead facilitator, said the process took two months.
“The purpose was not to make a statement. The purpose is to do right by our students,” Pabón said.
Initially, Pabón, former Assistant Director for Wellness, Gender and Sexuality Jon Mergens and Associate Director of Student Activities Brandon Cash ’16 approached Vice President for Student Life Hassel Morrison with the idea. Next, they wrote an official proposal that was approved by Morrison.
Pabón believes the new all-gender restrooms put inclusivity into action.
“The message students receive is that we care about you, you’re important to us and this is your home,” Pabón said. The change also follows an examination of Diversity Training results, a program that all students participated in this past fall, which revealed that four percent of students at St. Olaf identify as outside the gender binary.
Pabón said that, from what she knows, the update has been well received by students.
“Surprisingly, I’ve only gotten really really good feedback,” Pabón said. Although Pabón said she was not able to specify who, “other individuals on campus” have since expressed interest in spreading all-gender bathrooms to other buildings on campus and curiosity about the process.
Ian Baxter ’22 thinks the newly labeled bathrooms are a positive change.
“I think it’s great. I use that bathroom every day when I go to the cage,” Baxter said.
He dismissed the opinion of those who may reject the recent transition. “If people have a problem with it, my message is everyone sh*ts, everyone pees, male or female or whatever you identify as, so I don’t give a d*mn,” Baxter said.
The College has changed the signs on the single-stall, all-gender restrooms that were already in Buntrock Commons from the pictures of a woman and a man to simply “all-gender.” The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion has also partnered with the Wellness Center to create toilet talks surrounding the topic of all-gender restrooms.
Pabón is proud of the work done over the past two months.
“Multi-stall [all-gender] restrooms are not the norm yet in any higher ed, so we’re pretty progressive in how we did this work,” Pabón said. “We stayed ahead of the game.”
St. Olaf is not alone, however. Macalester College has multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms in both residence halls and academic buildings, according to their website. Carleton’s all-gender bathrooms are mostly single-stall, although they have multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms in newer dorm buildings, according to Carleton Facilities.
Most buildings on St. Olaf’s campus have single-stall restrooms, including several residence halls, said Assistant Director of Facilities Kevin Larson.
“It takes time to make changes but we are addressing it as quickly as we can,” Larson said. “A lot of our buildings are covered.”
A list of gender-inclusive facilities posted by St. Olaf can be found at this link.