By Jambar Contributor
Youngstown State University’s Inclusion and Awareness Committee, in conjunction with the school’s Student Government Association, is making campus bathrooms more accessible to those who seek more privacy.
YSU recently began working towards incorporating “single-use” bathrooms, a system of lavatories which will more sufficiently accommodate all student demographics. Such facilities will be accessible for all students but will specifically address the growing needs of parents with small children or babies and the transgender community.
John Hyden, YSU’s Executive Director of Facilities, described the process of implementing the proposed additions.
“In the existing buildings, there are a lot of restrooms that might be small restrooms that currently have one urinal and a toilet in it,” Hyden said. “That could easily be made a ‘single-use’ restroom by just changing the sign on the door and putting a latch on the door so it can be used by one person at a time.”
Hyden also acknowledged the presence of such facilities prior to the new initiative and their necessity moving forward.
“We’ve had several on campus,” Hyden said. “Over the years, we’ve gotten to the point that we try, in new buildings, to put them in and now we’re just going to make it kind of a requirement of our building programs that we’ll have family or ‘single-use’ restrooms in all those new buildings.”
Hyden was understandably wary of the terminology he used in approaching the topic. William Blake, co-chair of YSU’s Inclusion and Awareness Committee and director of the school’s Student Diversity Program, explained the inflammatory potential of using the incorrect nomenclature.
“The reason that we use the term ‘single-use’ is so that we wouldn’t have to get caught up in some of the other kinds of cultural phenomenon that are going on around the issues of using restrooms,” Blake said. “Some people want to say ‘single-sex’ or ‘unisex,’ but we don’t.”
Despite careful wording, Blake emphasized that this move on the part of the university is not merely about bathroom alterations.
“The bottom line for us, in terms of the university, was the fact that we began to have a larger population of transgender people on our campus,” Blake said. “That population was in need of having the levels of security and confidence and support that everyone else on our campus has. This was one way of dealing with that particular concern without making it a big issue for everybody.”
Rayann Atway, SGA president at YSU, expressed enthusiasm for the initiative and the implication it has for traditionally marginalized student groups.
“Anyone seeking more privacy when using restrooms will benefit from them,” Atway said. “Specifically, transgender populations will benefit from these restrooms, and those who may be outside the gender binary realm.”
Atway’s sentiments were echoed by Ernie Barkett, SGA executive vice-president. However, Barkett expressed that this is just one step in a series.
“It cannot stop here,” Barkett said. “This is one of the first of many moves that the university needs to make to improve the overall look and feel of campus. Morale at the university is high and still rising, and I think that this project captures that feeling for the time being.”