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

By Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg

(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 [email protected] and followed on Twitter @busybusybeckybe.