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Students and community members begin email campaign opposing removal of multi-stall gender-inclusive bathroom on the Spectrum Hall

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff / Daily Collegian)

Over the summer, a bathroom on the first floor of Baker Hall, home to the Spectrum LGBTQ+ designated residential community, was reassigned from “gender-inclusive” to one just for “women.”

Some residents on the Spectrum Floor have responded negatively toward the re-assigning of the bathroom, saying it goes against the purpose of the residential area and its message of gender inclusivity.

Ethan Gourlay, a junior theater major and a current resident of Spectrum, shared how having a gender-inclusive bathroom is “one of the main reasons” they chose to live in Baker.

“I find having to choose between men’s and women’s rooms oppressive and uncomfortable,” Gourlay, who is gender non-conforming/nonbinary, said.

Spectrum residents, along with their allies from across the University of Massachusetts, the Five College Consortium, and people in general Amherst communities, have been emailing Dawn Bond, the director of student services at Residential Life, to denounce the change as oppressive and regressive. In a formatted email template being spread on Facebook for students to use when emailing, those in support of the gender-inclusive bathroom on the Spectrum Floor reiterate its’ significance for trans students at UMass.

“I am expressing my support to recrate the space as safe and affirming for all residents, and hope that the signage is in place to fulfill student’s needs as quickly as possible,” the email sample states.

In his own email, CJ Harper, a psychology student at UMass, stressed that not only he, but “all other transgender and non-binary individuals benefit greatly from having gender neutral bathrooms available to us.”

Bond and Diana Fordham, the operations manager at Baker Hall, both declined to comment.

In a letter sent out before the start of the school year from Jean MacKimmie, Director of Residence Education at Residential Life, Spectrum residents were informed of the bathroom re-signing and the reason behind the decision. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Plumbing Code, according to MacKimmie, currently stipulates that all multi-stall bathrooms or restrooms “be designated as either male or female.”

“The previous ‘all gender’ sign was installed without consultation with Residential Life Directors, the staff of the Stonewall Center, student organizations or the State Plumbing Board,” MacKimmie stated.

Daniel Fitzgibbons, associate director of News and Media Relations at UMass, described the posting of the “all gender sign” as an “ad hoc change”—one taken without significant prior planning.

In the same letter, MacKimmie also reaffirmed the University’s commitment to gender inclusivity, as, per the University Restroom and Bathroom Policy, it “strives to create and sustain a campus environment that supports and values all members of our community.”

“As a result, 135 campus bathrooms, 122 residence halls restrooms and 21 residence hall bathrooms have been designated as gender-inclusive,” MacKimmie stated.

Fitzgibbons reiterated this stance, stating, “We’ve devoted considerable resources to increase the number of gender-inclusive bathrooms.”

While the University attempts to uphold Massachusetts plumbing policy, students continue to fight against the removal of the gender-inclusive bathroom in Baker Hall.

“The change to women’s rooms might not have a big change—I intend to use them because gender is a lie,” Gourlay said.

Rebecca Wiesenberg can be reached at rdukewiesenb@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @busybusybeckybe.

Comments
3 Responses to “Students and community members begin email campaign opposing removal of multi-stall gender-inclusive bathroom on the Spectrum Hall”
  1. BM says:

    Why is UMASS letting the inmates trying to run the asylum? Most of these people are in need of counseling, psych meds and tough love. I hope they are studying to earn a job, they will need one to pay all the medical bills they will rack up in their lifetime. What until they enter the real world, they will find it not accomendating to their warped view of things. Please include photographs of the people quoted in future stories, why just show their feet under a bathroom stall?

  2. Ed Cutting, Ed.D. says:

    No, the code doesn’t say that — what it does say is:
    “Toilet facilities, shower rooms and bathing rooms for males and females shall be separate and so designated.”

    IF you have them FOR males & females, THEN you must have them separate and so designated.
    If you don’t, then you don’t have to…

    Remember that this was written when all dormitories (and most colleges) were single-sex — but strict construction of that sentence would exclude facilities that aren’t for either for males or females.. Even though the men who wrote that sentence never conceived of anything other than male or female, the sentence means what it says…

  3. CMNewell says:

    I was somewhat bemused by the flap over assigning gender identities to dormitory bathrooms, especially as it displays an inordinate interest on the part of whichever government functionary promulgated such silliness in the first place.

    As a freshman living in Pierpont in the early 1970’s, I do not recall signage designating the bathrooms men or women.

    Regardless, the facilities were used by whomever needed them, without any issues.

    As Firesign Theatre would say, “Forward! Into the past!”

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