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Students demand bathroom accountability

(Kate Mitchell / Daily Collegian)

Students, faculty and administration gathered to discuss why the sign for the first-floor bathroom in Baker Hall was changed from “gender-inclusive” to just for “women.”

Held in the University of Massachusetts Commonwealth Honors College Event Hall by the University Bathroom and Restroom Committee on Tuesday, the town hall-style meeting was intended to address why the bathroom—which is on the Spectrum LGBTQIA and Ally Floor in Baker—was re-signed and any steps that can be taken to resolve the issue.

Jean MacKimmie, Director of Residence Education for UMass Residential Life, led the meeting, beginning with an apology.

“We should have and could have communicated with members of the community last spring,” MacKimmie said. “I believe there are things that could’ve been done differently.”

She then went on to explain that not only had that specific bathroom been out of compliance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Plumbing Code for the past year and a half, but that the University has been intending to comply with code.

“We knew all along that we were going to change it,” MacKimmie said.

However, MacKimmie did state that last week the committee proposed to file a variance to renovate the bathroom, i.e., lengthening the stalls to reach from floor to ceiling, in order to appease both students and the state. The variance will be submitted by the end of this month. Students were then invited to submit testimony for the variance hearing, as well as advised to contact Student Legal Services.

Students questioned the committee’s intentions behind the re-signing of the bathroom.

“Why couldn’t we continue to not be in compliance,” Marina Franc, a senior chemistry major who uses she/her pronouns, asked.

Sibelle Grise, a senior French and Francophone and social thought and political economy double major and Spectrum community resident, wanted to know what penalties were there for not complying to code.

MacKimmie responded that a lack of compliance would result in financial fines for the University.

“When do we become worth spending money on,” Luke James, a junior electrical engineering major who uses they/them pronouns, said.

Helen Woods, a junior elementary, theater and education major who uses they/them pronouns, felt that the committee—and the University by extension—were not viewing this issue with a humanitarian lens.

“When you talk to us as students, we’re not just a bunch of numbers; we’re actual people,” Woods said.

Justin Kilian, a former UMass student who uses she/her pronouns, questioned who the committee is serving.

“Who is this bathroom an issue for? It’s not an issue with trans students,” Kilian said.

As the committee continued to attempt to respond to students’ questions and concerns, tensions rose, and students became increasingly frustrated and discontented.

“When are we going to get legitimate answers,” Bridget Reilly, a junior public health major who uses they/them pronouns, demanded of the committee.

To hold the committee accountable, the attending students proposed for committee meetings to be well-advertised and accessible to students affected, and for the minutes from each meeting to be released to the public.

“You broke our trust,” Kilian said. “Y’all have shown that this is not a priority.”

“The only reason I’m still at UMass is because of that bathroom,” Robin Zollner said, a junior chemical engineering major and former Spectrum resident who uses he/him pronouns.

Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg can be reached at rdukewiesenb@umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “Students demand bathroom accountability”
  1. umassalum says:

    Are you kidding me?

    Since when did we all get so damn….whiny?

    Dearest students, if the University isn’t in compliance with building/plumbing code, it’s not a little $100 fine – it’s MUCH more substantial than that. Last I checked, it’s not the University’s job to decide over being compliant with state building/plumbing codes over what student’s want a bathroom labeled as. And if the plan is to bring the bathroom to code and restore it to how it had been as a gender-inclusive bathroom, then what the hell is the big deal?

    If the transgender students don’t care, why are you all getting your panties in such a freaking bunch?

    For as smart as you have to be to be admitted to UMass Amherst, these students are f*cking asinine. Not getting legitimate answers? GET OVER IT, welcome to adulthood kiddies.

  2. umassalumn04 says:

    For a generation who things they’re so supremely enlightened and in touch with the problems of the world, this issue is to absurdly insignificant. I would be embarrassed to be leading the charge on something like this. If any of them had the intellectual curiosity to look beyond the 01003 zip code, they would realize how trivial their grievances are and that the world is filled with people with ACTUAL problems. Some people worry about pronouns, others worry about their villages being burned to the ground and their families slaughtered. Some people get upset over signage on a bathroom, others scrounge for food in garbage dumps to feed themselves. If a sign on a bathroom frustrates you, imagine how frustrating it must be pack all the earthly belongings you can carry and walk hundreds of miles carrying your children to escape a terrorist invasion. Imagine how frustrating living in a tent city with no bathrooms must be while your children starve and you have no ideal if your lot in life will ever improve. It’s such a waste of energy and resources. If everyone in the world put their problems in a pile, you’d take yous back.

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