SGA Bill Pushes for Accountability in the Process of Creating All Male and Female Toilets
For Sterling Prudencio, finding a bathroom on campus can take 10 minutes.
On days when the top public policy official, who identifies as genderqueer, presents himself as more feminine, going to the men’s bathroom makes him feel uncomfortable. And to find a single-use toilet or an empty bathroom, Prudencio sometimes has to leave the building where his class is.
“Sometimes you don’t even have a choice to use a single-user toilet,” Prudencio said. “You must take what is given to you. It sucks and it’s frustrating and it makes you feel rushed, it makes you feel like you have to go above and beyond to accomplish such a simple task.
Prudencio voiced support for a bill at an SGA meeting on Wednesday night, demanding that the University of Maryland detail its plans to ensure more gender-accessible and universally designed restrooms across campus.
The bill, which passed unanimously, was sponsored by SGA trade representative Jaime Atilano. They drafted the bill to make facilities management and university administration more responsible for building all toilets for one or more users, Atilano said.
This, Prudencio said, would make students of all gender identities more comfortable going to the multi-user bathroom.
“I really believe the university should make this an initiative,” Prudencio said. “Over the past three years, it has become clear that not all students are a safety priority, and we have seen this through tragic events on campus.”
While this isn’t the first time the student government has called on the leadership of this university to create more accessible all-gender restrooms, it is now demanding to see a clear long-term plan that ensures every building on campus has access to toilets. ‘at least one all-gender restroom in response to the slow construction of restrooms and signage for all genders over the past few years,’ Atilano said.
“I know it’s not a new problem, but we can keep trying to get things done,” Atilano said.
While drafting the bill, Atilano met with members of the LGBT Equity Center and Pride Alliance to learn about past efforts to create more inclusive restrooms.
Luke Jensen, the director of the LGBT Equity Center, introduced a bill in March 2017 calling for more inclusive facilities, which was signed by university president Wallace Loh. The University Senate approved a gender inclusion policy that included changes to current bathrooms in September 2018.
More than 50 buildings on campus do not offer gender-neutral restrooms, Atilano said. Unlike previous legislation, this bill is more specific in calling for inclusive and accessible restrooms, citing specific high-traffic buildings on campus that need more restrooms for all genders, including McKeldin Libraries and Hornbake.
There’s a clear need for more gender-neutral toilets, Atilano said, because those currently available are often unreasonably far from the students who need to use them.
“What are we doing to create more accessible and inclusive designs? said Shige Sakurai, associate director of the LGBT Equity Center. “Especially in new construction, there still seem to be a lot of missed opportunities. I haven’t seen a plan yet, although the recommendation from the Senate was that we should consider having gender-neutral toilets in every building.
The bill, which has been the subject of consultations with members of the LGBT Equity Center, Pride Alliance and the co-chair of the President’s Commission on Disability Issues, will serve as an official SGA position to support the timely design of all new construction and renovations so that all toilets in a building are toilets for all genders.
“It’s just an improvement in the quality of life for students,” said David Rowe, Pride Alliance Treasurer. “We believe that all students should have the opportunity to use a bathroom easily and comfortably.”