Students taking a part in last Thursday's seminar on gender neutral bathrooms. Credit: Makayla Khan / Mustang News

Dean of Students Joy Pedersen and faculty hosted another seminar last Thursday for students to discuss progress and provide input and feedback on incorporating gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

Pedersen began the seminar by first discussing the survey results that were posted outside of the Walter F. Dexter Building (34) bathrooms.

There were a total of 170 responses, with 58% of responses coming from students who used the bathrooms after the new signage was put up.

A quarter of these results stated that they liked having gender neutral bathrooms being readily available for students, but are concerned about privacy. This survey will remain open for students and it is encouraged for more students to answer campus-wide. 

Students were also able to share their personal issues on the survey and current issues they have with signage or the school’s process of integrating gender-neutral bathrooms. 

One particular frustration that students had was the additional urinals and no urinals signage by the bathrooms in Dexter.

Liberal arts and engineering sophomore Ryan said by having these additional signs included, it was reinforcing cisgender bathrooms on campus. Other students at the seminar agreed and shared that they would prefer that this added disclaimer was no longer included in future signage. 

Additionally, stickers were given out to all students to place on a printed map at the front so that they may place them where they want more gender neutral bathrooms. 

However, this upset some students because they felt as if they were choosing based on priority rather than inclusivity.

“I want to see a bathroom in every single building and on every single floor,” Ryan said. 

Students don’t want to have to pick which buildings get implemented more than others, they said.

“There is an argument for every building needing it first,” liberal arts and engineering sophomore Mikala said. 

Similarly, other students agreed that they are happy with the new signage and the process that the school has done, but acknowledge that there is still a long way to go. 

After this meeting, the faculty established an agenda set out before them to implement new signage in a variety of bathrooms. 

The current plan is to change the signage of 15 buildings on campus before continuing on to others. There will be two new signs put up for each building in no more than two months. In about 3-4 weeks, these new signs will be received, and in about six weeks, faculty will determine which 15 buildings will get a signage change.

There are four sign designs that the faculty is deciding between and they may later send out a survey to students to vote on. If this survey is created and sent out to students, this process will be delayed. 

Additionally, faculty is working on implementing new partitions for bathrooms to go in between urinals. 

Students at this seminar expressed that the main concern with these partitions is that they are lower than their height and they want more the gaps between them.

Associate Director of Capital Projects Michelle Chariton was receptive to this information and considered that where height may be added for taller individuals, rubber or metal stoppers can be included in this process to ensure students feel safe and protected. 

Chariton is working closely on this project because of both her job title and personal connection to this issue. When she first became an employee on campus, she also struggled with finding an inclusive bathroom.

 “People don’t quite understand the anxiety around trying to look for restrooms. Restrooms are hostile for anyone who doesn’t conform to binary looks of cisgender [people],” Chariton said. 

Before working at Cal Poly, she worked as a project director for Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. Chariton was responsible for converting staff restrooms into student single-use restrooms for transgender students, which drew significant national media attention. 

In 2015, she led efforts to design and program the first fully inclusive high school with non-gendered restroom and locker room facilities in Grant High School. Chariton said in an email that her hope for the school’s process is to eventually see one multi-stall restroom in each building on campus. Then, moving forward, that this process can maybe further encourage policy makers to change the codes required for universities. 

Art and design junior Anusha serves as a representative of the Pride Center. They explained that the progress Cal Poly has made thus far is extremely influential; “Seeing the gender-inclusive signs made all the difference in the world to so many people close to me and the community I serve,” they said.

They describe this process as “monumental, but normal.”

Several students and faculty agree that this is not a new process or transition and simply a way to make more people feel comfortable on campus. 

Students said they are still going to continue in this fight and hold faculty accountable for keeping track of their progress in implementing more gender-neutral bathrooms. 

“I think the people who have the power to change things should be putting in the work to educate themselves, not relying on the people that the issue is affecting,” Anusha said.

Students can work closely with the faculty as they see fit. The Pride Center will continue to be a resource for students throughout this process and wants to “empower students, especially those with marginalized identities, to take up space and express their feelings when they feel it’s right,” Anusha said.

After the first meeting with students that took place in January, faculty created a gender inclusivity committee of faculty and students that meets monthly. Students are interested on joining can email for more information.