The fourth floor of Lerner Hall, the seventh and eighth floors of McBain, and the 12th through 15th floors of John Jay will see the addition of new single-use, gender-inclusive bathrooms this summer—a change that organizers say is a significant step towards making trans students feel more comfortable at Columbia.
The renovations were spearheaded by GendeRevolution, University Senator Marc Heinrich, CC ’16, and Columbia College Student Council Vice President for Communications Peter Bailinson, CC ’16. Future renovations to residence halls will also feature similar single-use, gender-neutral bathrooms.
“Bathrooms were one of the main things identified as an improvement to benefit the trans community,” Heinrich said, referring to the senate’s recent quality-of-life survey data that showed trans students were significantly more dissatisfied across the board.
Still, members of GendeRevolution said that this summer’s renovations are just a first step. They said that many buildings on campus, including Butler Library and Hamilton Hall, still don’t feature gender-inclusive bathrooms.
“For trans and gender non-conforming students, there is no place in these buildings to safely and comfortably go to the bathroom,” the GendeRevolution executive board said in a statement. “While the addition of gender-inclusive bathrooms this summer is an improvement, there is a lot more to be done.”
The group also said that gender-neutral housing options for first-years is a future goal—although the University implemented gender-neutral housing for non-first-year dorms in 2010, there are currently no such options for incoming students.
GendeRevolution also said that they hoped to see other changes that would improve the University’s trans community’s comfort and safety.
While many universities, including Princeton, Yale, and Cornell, allow students to change their names in the directory without a legal name change, Columbia requires such documentation.
Bailinson, Heinrich, and the Gender Revolution executive board also said that many nonbinary students experience discomfort when interacting with Public Safety.
“The next immediate step is sensitivity training for Public Safety officers, to make sure they are promoting an inclusive Columbia,” Bailinson said.
GendeRevolution also identified the swim test as a source of contention because of the lack of gender-inclusive changing rooms in Dodge Gym and the use of highly gendered swimsuits in a public place.
“In the bigger picture, we are also constantly focusing on issues like the fact that Barnard does not admit trans women and the fact that Barnard health insurance does not cover trans health care whereas Columbia’s does,” the group’s board said.
Still, there has been a fair amount of progress since the group began advocating for more gender inclusivity. Last year, Barnard started to install gender-inclusive bathrooms in every building on its campus. At his last fireside chat, University President Lee Bollinger said that he aims to make the campus a safer space for the trans community.
GendeRevolution members said that more still has to be done to alleviate the stress faced by the trans community.
“While Columbia as an institution enacts many policies that harm trans and gender non-conforming students, these policies also exist within a larger cultural context of constant transphobia and transmisogyny,” the board said. “Making campus a safer place for trans students ultimately requires that individuals within the community unlearn these biases.”