The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

Gender-Neutral bathrooms spark campus wide discussion on accessibility

Peter Dazeley via Getty Images
Gender Neutral Restroom Sign

The recent introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms across Central Oregon Community College campuses has ignited discussions among students and faculty regarding accessibility and inclusivity on campus.

Spearheaded by Christy Walker, COCC’s director of diversity and inclusion, and the Campus Services team, the initiative reflects a broader conversation around creating safe and welcoming spaces for all students at COCC.

Currently, gender-neutral bathrooms are located in several buildings on COCC campuses, including the Boyle Education Center (second floor), Campus Services, the Chandler Building, the Middleton Science Center (first floor), the Ochoco Annex, Pence (upper floor next to men’s and women’s restrooms), the Physiology Lab the Redmond Technology Education Center, Student Housing (lower level), the Prineville Campus and Ponderosa (two on first floor).

Recent expansions will include 3–4 more on the Redmond Campus in building 3 after the remodel, and there will be gender-inclusive bathrooms in the new building in Madras.

However, despite these advancements, there are ongoing concerns regarding the accessibility of these facilities. Walker says, “Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that these bathrooms exist in these spaces, but they don’t exist in all spaces. And I believe that we should have a gender neutral bathroom in every building.”

This limitation means that not all students and faculty have easy access to these facilities, highlighting the need for more widespread availability.

“We have a lot of events on campus, and where you go to the restroom shouldn’t be a worry, it shouldn’t feel dangerous. It shouldn’t feel like you have to leave the space that you’re in and really be othered. It should be accessible to everyone. It’s just a basic human need,” says Walker.

Moving forward, any new construction on campus will include gender-neutral bathrooms, but converting existing facilities remains a challenge.

The decision to implement gender-neutral bathrooms was driven by a clear need for more inclusive and accessible facilities on campus. This initiative was largely driven by Paula Simone with strong support from campus services, particularly Josh Clawson.

The lack of available facilities was a significant factor, emphasizing the necessity for such inclusive options to ensure that everyone on campus feels safe and respected.

The reaction from the COCC community has been mixed, with many students expressing concern over the current limitations of these facilities. Students and faculty have voiced the need for more widespread access to gender-neutral bathrooms, and that such facilities are a basic human need that should be accessible to everyone. “There is a human rights drive and motivation. Accessible bathrooms should not be treated as a privilege; it should be a right for everyone, including students, employees, and community members,” says Walker.

The absence of these facilities in some areas of the campus can make individuals feel “othered” and unsafe, particularly during events when community members are present.

The introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms at COCC is a significant step towards inclusivity and accessibility. However, there is more that needs to be done to ensure these facilities are available in all buildings.

While we continue to see great strides, there is still a lot of work to be done to support the LGBTQ+ community. COCC has committed to making sure any new buildings have inclusive bathrooms. We have an awesome Campus Services team that cares about these issues and they work hard to enforce this,” says Walker

As COCC continues to expand and develop, the commitment to include gender-neutral bathrooms in all new constructions will help create a more inclusive environment. For now, Walker encourages community members to, “open their hearts to the fact that people are different, and we have a great diversity here. Everyone should be allowed to exist with respect and dignity.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Arden Anderson
Arden Anderson, Editor
Arden Anderson is an editor who began contributing to The Broadside in early 2023 and has since discovered a passion for news writing.

Comments (0)

All The Broadside Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *