Students Advocate for Gender Inclusive Restrooms

Jacob DeCarli ’22, Associate Managing Editor

HUB bathrooms being changed to gender inclusive for a weekend event has prompted an initiative for this to become a permanent change. 

During the annual GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Leadership Summit, the bathrooms in the HUB were labeled as gender inclusive for “anyone of any gender [to] use,” according to an email sent from the Dickinson College Newsletter on Monday, March 18. The email explained that through the Queer and Trans Advocacy

Committee, the college is “trying to offer more permanent inclusive restrooms in our buildings heavily used by the public,” in response to a large student interest in gender inclusive restrooms. 

“We felt as though it’s disingenuous for Dickinson to have the restrooms in the HUB only gender neutral for three days a year,” said James van Kuilenburg ’22, a leader of the initiative.

Van Kuilenburg and other trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) students hung signs on the doors of the HUB bathrooms advocating for students to confront the administration towards permanent gender inclusive bathrooms. “As of today, the only permanently available gender-neutral restrooms on campus are few and far between,” part of the sign read, along with a signature on behalf of the LGBT students at Dickinson. 

“We want administration to hear loud and clear that this is a move supported by the student body right now,” according to van Kuilenburg. 

Van Kuilenburg said that he and the other students hung the signs to “hold Dickinson accountable.”

Although there are student frustrations, van Kuilenburg recognizes that the college believes gender inclusive bathrooms are an important feature for the campus’s queer and trans community.

“[T]he implementation of them [single-service gender inclusive restrooms] across campus has been successful,” he said, “but yet, in the most popular and student-focused building on campus trans and GNC students have to either leave the building to find a safe bathroom or force themselves into a facility where they have to compromise their identity.”

Erica Lawrence, director of the office of LGBTQ services, said she encourages and supports student activism on campus, which is why she and the GSA summit organizers did not remove the signs posted by the student group. 

While Lawrence recognizes the frustrations among students, she said that one of the statements on the signs is inaccurate. One sign reads: “Dickinson refuses to make these bathrooms-or any restrooms on campus-gender neutral until renovations,” however according to the Dickinson website page on Transgender and Non-Binary Visibility, single-service restrooms have been gender inclusive since an initiative in 2015 by the Queer and Trans Advocacy Committee.

Lawrence also said that the administration is “very aware” of the issue and has been “examining the ways to create more inclusive restrooms on campus.”

“It is our hope that one day with adequate financial support we will be able to have permanent inclusive restrooms in the HUB,” she said.

Students have been supportive of the efforts from van Kuilenburg and the group because of student interest in gender inclusive restrooms. “This is a move Dickinson is expected to do by its student body,” he said, “and many people’s reaction is positive when they’ve engaged with the issue.” Van Kuilenburg explained that heavy student support and involvement “proves the easy and quick transition” for the HUB bathrooms to become gender inclusive.