Single-stall restrooms in buildings across campus will be getting a new upgrade very soon.
The President’s Council for Diversity and Inclusiveness has approved the signs and procedure for gender-inclusive restrooms on USD’s campus. This change will be made to benefit many people, according to officials, such as individuals with disabilities who have caretakers of a different gender, gender-diverse or non-conforming individuals and parents with children of a different gender.
With a proposed gender-inclusive facilities plan, initiated by Travis Letellier, a visiting professor of economics, and former vice president of diversity, Jesus Trevino, single occupancy restrooms with a lock will be getting signs put up within the next few months.
Kim Grieve, dean of students and vice president of student services, said the policy has been discussed this year for ideas on signs, and the Executive Council approved this “about a year ago.”
“We’re in the midst of waiting to decide on different signage,” Grieve said. “It’s really had nice progress — it’s certainly something that’s really important to the institution as we move forward with our commitment to
There are around 50-60 single-occupancy restrooms on campus, according to Letellier.
“Those bathrooms can be easily gender-inclusive,” Letellier said. “It would be very easy for us at the university to basically, instead of labeling them as being gendered for either male or female gender, to open it up to families. (For instance), mothers who have sons, fathers who have daughters or if you are an adult and you have a parent or child you have to take care of who is the opposite gender.”
According to Letellier, the next step in setting the policy into motion is having the president’s executive committee for the university look at implementing the procedure for actually changing the signs of the restrooms.
The way this policy is being set up is through a pilot program, Letellier said. First, the restrooms in the MUC, housing and the Wellness Center will change, because they’re “high-trafficking” areas.
The reason for starting at only two areas is to test the response from the community and see how it plays out before moving on to the other buildings.
“We can kind of get feedback from people,” Letellier said. “We want to make sure that, as we implement the policy, we do it in the most effective way possible. It’s better to do it at a smaller scale… if we do it on a small scale, then it’s really easy to correct it. The idea would be to roll it out slowly, doing a couple buildings at a time.”
Putting the signs up will be up to facilities management depending on the building, and the cost for each sign will vary in price. The ones being recommended are $26.39, and will be
“It’s not a large enough order that I think would require a contract,” Grieve said.
Rather than an actual
policy, Letellier said, this would act as a
procedure, so that when new buildings are constructed, they’ll already have gender-inclusive restrooms being built.
Letellier said bringing this procedure to USD is imperative because of inclusive excellence, and also “reinvent the wheel” for other institutions.
“Inclusive excellence is, really, the driving force for USD,” Letellier said. “This is a very important component of that. To kind of have gendered bathrooms… when you have certain circumstances, it does become inconvenient for (some people). Bringing this issue to USD and having USD take the lead on this… If we can lay the groundwork here at USD, then it’ll allow other universities in South Dakota to maybe have somewhere to pick up from.”
Letellier and Grieve spoke at Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting about the policy. Olivia Mann, a junior college of arts & sciences SGA senator, said the policy was a good idea to promote inclusive excellence.
“I think it’s very exciting,” Mann said. “USD (is) putting its money where its mouth is here — it’s important for all students
Letellier, who has been at USD for two years, said he has done policy work similar to this before at the other institutions he’s worked.
“When I came here to USD, and I started working with the vice president for diversity… (Trevino and I) thought, ‘maybe we can get a little more traction on this,’” Letellier said. “That’s when, in the spring 2016, I sat down and looked at several different best practices that other universities
In terms of misconceptions about the signs, such as they are only for transgender individuals, Letellier said “best practices” are also being introduced to educate people on why the signs are being put up.
To do this, there will be a one-page, laminated sheet on the bathroom door that will explain why the signs changed. These will stay up for about a year.
“Because of a lot of misconceptions, this is not an issue for transgender individuals — they’re one of the constituencies that would benefit from a policy like this, but helping the community at large understand that there are a lot of other people that benefit from this change, too,”
Grieve said adding the extra sign would help people understand why the President’s Council for Diversity and Inclusiveness is implementing this
“People will have a full understanding,” Grieve said. “We’ll do other things to help educate, as well.”
Letellier said he hopes to see other schools take USD as an example to create their own gender-inclusive restroom policy.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support for this,” Letellier said. “This really seems to be an issue that a lot of the administration, a lot of the faculty, a lot of the students are all kind of on the same page that this would be good for USD.”