11 October 2013

University of Minnesota Restrooms - The Hold Up?

This continues my series on single-use restrooms at the University of Minnesota (post 1, 2, 3).

I think I finally got a clear answer concerning the single-use restrooms that are not gender-neutral. Here is what I have discovered:

1) There is no policy concerning the gendering of single-use restrooms.
2) When changes are made to a room, it must be brought up to code. For that reason any single-use restroom that is not gender-neutral may cost more than just a sign change to make gender-neutral.

Therefore it is a time/effort/money issue. The restrooms in the Ecology Building have apparently now been added to a restroom modification queue. This also means there is a time/effort/money bottleneck somewhere, and leads me to the following questions:

1) How many gendered single-use restrooms are not up to code? The ones that are up to code would be low hanging fruit.
2) Where is the time/effort/money bottleneck. Is it with Facilities? University appropriations? The level of committment to diversity and inclusion? Tracking down this bottleneck will help to resolve the issue university-wide.
3) What channels could resolve this bottleneck? For example, if there truly is no money for this, could we get alum to pay for the fixes, potentially for their name appearing somewhere? Is this a project to put on somebody specific's radar? One thought I have had is that one could report single-use gendered restrooms as gender and gender identity bias (using this form), and use that mediation to accelerate the movement of the university's hand. That may be one way to move the university along by having the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affrimative Action do part of the lifting. Certain entities (university governance, university-affiliated organizations, etc) may also be able to push the process along. It in-part depends on where the bottleneck is as to what would be effective.
4) What would be most appropriate in a policy? A standard would of course be that single-use restrooms will be gender-neutral, and that new construction will include such facilities. A channel to report single-use restrooms that are not gender-neutral would also be useful. I think it would be useful for a resolution suggesting a policy to also suggest looking into the feasibility of gender-neutral multi-use restrooms in some facilities (which would include looking at what restrooms have floor-to-ceiling stalls). Beyond that: Would the policy include a timeline, to make sure we aren't just dumping on facilities something they don't have the resources to do? What would be an appropriate timeline? Part of this would involve looking at other universities, particularly the University of Minnesota's peers.
5) Is temporary signage possible? One question I haven't asked, but I've certainly had in the back of my head, is if just a paper sign could work until Facilities can get to the restrooms? I recognize that Facilities may not be able to make the changes themselves (due to code issues), but what if somebody (not affiliated with facilities) put a paper sign simply stating that the restroom is gender neutral? The TransCommission, for example, puts up a sign on multi-use restrooms near their meetings for the duration of their meeting making them gender neutral. If say, the Ecology Building community wanted to do something similar, is that possible? They wouldn't make the gender-neutral restroom list, but they would provide a temporary solution for the people who use the facilities in question.

There have to be ways to get this issue resolved and resolved in a timely manner, as is only consistant with the Twin Cities' history and the University of Minnesota's reputation.