Transgender Policy Committee, a subcommittee of LGBTQA created last semester, has an agenda in the works to make West Chester University’s campus a safe environment for all students. The plan will help incoming students.
McCarthy Hall is no longer the only traditional housing option with the single occupancy bathroom, which is built similar to a family style bathroom. Wayne, Schmidt, Killinger, Goshen and Tyson Halls now have two single occupancy bathrooms on the first floor of the residence. Jacqueline Hodes, the advisor of the LGBTQA, toured the residence halls with Peter Galloway, Director of Housing Services, to determine which buildings could be converted from a gender-designated bathroom into a gender-neutral or single occupancy bathroom. Hodes first discussed this with Galloway in the fall 2011 semester. They decided to make only the first floor bathrooms in the traditional residence halls into single occupancy bathrooms by placing a lock on the interior door, Hodes said.
The bathrooms, now with locks on the door, are used as single occupancy, despite if a second stall is available. The converted style is similar to the style in McCarthy Hall.
“It’s really like using your bathroom at home,” Hodes said. The recent development required sign changes. For a low cost of the signs, Hodes said, this creates equality. Residence Life and Housing went through and the maintenance staff placed the locks on the doors over the winter break, Galloway said. The signage was changed the weekend the residence halls opened during this semester in late January, Galloway said.
According to Galloway, one report was made to the office of Residence Life and Housing. During the spring opening weekend someone reported that another person of the opposite gender had entered the bathroom while they occupied it.
Other than the signage change, residents were not informed that the bathrooms were converted to the use of a single occupancy bathroom. Due to the incident, Residence Life and Housing posted a temporary note a few weeks ago, saying “Restroom Notice: These restrooms have recently been converted to single occupancy restroom. Please lock the door behind you. Thank you!”
“In hindsight, we could have posted the sign sooner,” Galloway said.
Permanent signs with a similar message will be placed on the exterior of the doors. The note is clearer and directs how the space should be used, Galloway said. The signage informs residents and guests to understand they must lock the door. He said the use of the locks fulfills their intent of converting the bathrooms to a single occupancy.
“This isn’t something unique to West Chester,” Galloway said, “It’s something construction projects (will consider).”
The change occurred mid-year; Galloway said they could have been more proactive about notifying students. Despite the signage change, for those who did not notice the sign change or the locks on the door, Residence Life and Housing understands they need to make this clear to the residents. The signage made it clear to a degree, he said, however overlooking the lock may have been the missing piece.
“We didn’t feel that this took anything away, but rather gave opportunity for our population who . . . may be transitioning,” Galloway said.
If concerns are raised, Galloway said they would investigate the reasons. He said the concern might be conquered with education and explanation for the single occupancy bathrooms. He said this is providing something we haven’t been able to provide on-campus previously.
Hodes said the positive outcome became possible, as the organizations on-campus involved in this were not resisting the change. Dr. Lisa Ruchti would agree the little changes would establish positive changes, such as single occupancy bathrooms built into the future campus construction projects. Ruchti is thankful for the support the organizations have given the committee, which makes the bathrooms more accessible for everyone.
The Recreation Center, opening in Fall 2012, will have single occupancy bathrooms. This will be beneficial, as Hodes explains it gives everyone the option for a single occupancy bathroom.
The Transgender Policy Committee advocated for the change in the bathrooms to make a “safe and accessible environment for all students,” Ruchti said. She is one of two faculty members on the committee.
Ruchti teaches her students about the violence that happens in gender-designated bathrooms against transgender people. The reaction to the fear of getting hurt in the bathrooms, Hodes said, is what prevents transgender students from going into a gender-designated bathroom.
Ruchti noted the campus climate survey revealed an increase of transgender students enrolled in WCU and reports of increase of transgender students in PASSHE. The WCU LGBTQA has developed a list of buildings with the locations of single occupancy bathrooms. Hodes, said the change in bathrooms is a way to show transgender students that the university cares about them.
Ruchti said people who have experienced obstacles in their transition have provided the committee with tremendous feedback that has “propelled us to move forward to make sure our campus is safe and accessible for all.” She added that this has been a grassroots and feminist committee.
The Transgender Policy Committee has made the process possible, as Ruchti said the feedback from students and the work of the committee has been great. The committee meets once a month.
The student-run committee is working on compiling a list of administrators to contact for help or personal needs. This will create a list of resources on the website www.wcupa.edu/LGBTQA for incoming students, and for students who begin their transition during college.
The committee is in the process of finding contacts for students who want to change their contact name on their WCU e-mail list to their preferred name, if they do not have a legal name change. One student on the committee is following up from last semester with SSI for a name change on the student ID card. This may involve obtaining a new Ram E card after a legal name change.
Ruchti said everyone they have been in contact with, such as Residence Life and Housing, the Health and Wellness Center, Women’s Center, and other students, have been supportive of transgender students and what they can do to help. The committee discussed affiliated housing as an option for students who want a single occupancy bedroom.
Rebekah Balmer, one of three students on the committee, said the students on the Sykes Union advisory Board were supportive when she proposed to designate one bathroom in the Sykes Student Union as a gender-neutral bathroom. Ruchti added that the committee is looking for some accessibility, whether it is for a single or more occupancy bathroom.
Balmer clarified that they do not want people to feel forced to use the gender-neutral bathrooms, rather so, they can have the option.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Balmer said in regards to recent change of the bathrooms. “It shows acceptance.”
Contact Dr. Ruchti at LRuchti@wcupa.edu for more information or to make a suggestion to the committee.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.