Students refocus gender-inclusive restroom survey


Schuyler Smith/Iowa State Daily

Brad Freihoefer, Brian Vanderheyden, and Andrew Fackler discuss how to make gender neutral bathrooms more accessible. The group is currently focusing on mapping gender neutral bathrooms on campus.

Greg Zwiers

A group of students and professionals involved in multiple LGBT organizations revised and refocused their plan to map the gender-inclusivity of restrooms on campus.

Students at Iowa State began working on mapping gender-inclusive restrooms on campus late in the fall 2014 semester and were also attempting to determine disabled accessibility.

The group focused on a study done by students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Students there found where each gender-neutral restroom on campus is and compiled the data into a Google map. The data included which restrooms were accessible for disabled people in accordance to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Andrew Fackler, freshman in political science, said he got the feeling people started to withdraw from planning because of the specificity of the survey they were using to evaluate the restrooms.

“It’s almost like we were trying to do too much from the get go,” Fackler said.

The group decided tentatively that its purpose will be “to map the current gender-inclusive restrooms on the ISU campus and explore the possibilities to increase the number of such bathrooms. This is important to ensure the access, comfortability and safety of trans, non-binary and agender identified individuals.”

Jessica Gookin, president of Gamma Rho Lambda and senior in women’s studies, plans to make evaluating restrooms the chapter’s service project for this semester. There are 15 active members in Gamma Rho Lambda.

Brian Vanderheyden, a health and prevention specialist at Thielen Health Center and faculty adviser of the Iowa State University chapter of One Iowa, said everything was put together and ready to start right before Winter Break last semester.

This semester, the group had not seen much progress. Sarah Miller, senior in genetics and Gamma Rho Lambda member, organized the meeting to “get everybody in the same room” even though she has only been involved in the project for a short time.

“Everybody who was in the room is really driven to see this happen quickly and get it done efficiently,” Miller said. “I think we’re on the right track. It’s just a matter of getting a few things out of the way.”

The new criteria for those volunteering to evaluate the restrooms doesn’t include disability access. They decided to focus on single stall restrooms and will record the building, floor, room number, whether the bathroom is marked as handicap accessible, how the restroom is labeled and if the door has an external lock on the map.

Single stall restrooms can have various labels such as family, unisex and male/female. They also discussed that if they include restrooms with a stall and one urinal, in the future, a lock can be put on the door and the restroom could be reclassified.

They hope to get groups of people to go together to evaluate the restrooms.

Miller said she would email Facilities Planning and Management to ask for any data on the restrooms. She said between the Gamma Rho Lambda members and “a smattering of people from One Iowa,” there are roughly 20 people who have committed to volunteer.

“We just have a few logistical things to get out before we jump right in, but once that stuff’s out of the way, you know give us two weeks and we’re going to be rearing to go,” Miller said.

The group hopes to organize a mass restroom evaluation as an event for Pride Week from April 6 to 12.