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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Time of need’: SGA, Spectrum partner to make gender-neutral bathrooms accessible

Student Government Association (SGA) and Spectrum have partnered to ensure gender-neutral bathrooms on campus are more accessible to students, in light of recent actions from the Kansas Legislature.

On July 1, Senate Bill 180, labeled by supporters as a “women’s bill of rights,” went into effect. The law prevents transgender and intersex people from using restrooms, locker rooms and other areas that align with their gender identity. 

The Kansas Legislature passed the wide-sweeping bill in April, narrowly overturning Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto.

Raising awareness of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus

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Motivated by SB 180’s passage, SGA Vice President Sophie Martins and Spectrum President Dawson Jacques have collaborated on a graphic of the gender-neutral campus bathrooms. Martins said once it is finalized, she hopes to share it via Shocker Blast and at Wichita State orientations.

“It’s not like we’re (SGA) going to restrict certain restrooms from anyone,” Martins said. “But if you don’t feel safe or comfortable using a certain restroom, we wanted it to just be a little bit more aware to students that there are (gender-neutral) restrooms on campus that you can go to.”

According to the Kansas Reflector, legal authorities said SB 180 has no clear measures for enforcement. Wichita State administration agreed the bill doesn’t have clear direction, and said it does not anticipate changes to existing policies or procedures.

Alex Tackett, a transgender Spectrum member, said SB 180’s impact extends beyond transgender people. She referred to an article about an instance in May, where a mother was told she couldn’t bring her adult autistic son into the women’s restroom with her at the Wichita Public Library.

“This is a chilling effect, and this is an individual who is not trans, who’s just trying to help her son,” Tackett said. “It’s not just trans folks who experience this knock on violence — it’s anyone who causes a quote on quote ‘disruption.’

Martins said she approached Spectrum because she wanted to involve people that SB 180 directly impacts. Jacques, who is transgender, provided feedback on Martins’ graphic, including certain locations and more “tucked away” bathrooms.

Martins said the interactive restroom map on WSU’s website is “finicky” due to the search filters. Jacques said Martins’ graphic is more detailed than other campus resources.

“When people come to me like, ‘What about in the geology building?’ I’m like, ‘I honestly have no clue. I’ve been in there, like, two times,’” Jacques, an aerospace engineering major, said. “It’s great to see that SGA is taking the initiative on some of that stuff, too, so we can work together to make the biggest impact.”

Efforts to create gender-neutral restrooms 

Jacques said that Spectrum, along with the LGBTQ+ Task Force, has also worked with the Facilities Department for a couple of years to relabel single-stall bathrooms that were previously gendered.

Jacques said SB 180’s passing made the groups’ goals more urgent, and all single-stall bathrooms have now been labeled as gender-neutral or family bathrooms.

“(The lack of gender-neutral bathrooms) not only impacts your feeling of safety on campus but also your ability to access a restroom,” Jacques said. “It impacts your ability to be productive in a day when you don’t have a safe space or accepted space to use the bathroom.”

Emily Patterson, the executive director of Facilities Planning, said her team changed over 10 campus restrooms and has ordered updated signage indicating “single occupancy” instead of “male” or “female.” She said that WSU’s website will be updated to reflect those changes.

“We did make a commitment, and we’re following through with that,” Patterson said. “We heard everybody, and we want to do the right thing.”

Patterson also said Facilities has added single occupancy bathrooms to new buildings, like with Woolsey Hall and the Marcus Welcome Center.  

Dawson said he hasn’t been able to find a single-occupancy restroom in Woolsey Hall. Patterson said that the restroom, labeled for family use, is around the corner from the gendered restrooms; The Sunflower confirmed this location. It doesn’t have any signage leading to it.

Patterson said Facilities also added a single occupancy restroom to the engineering building last year, but it would be difficult to add more single-stall bathrooms to current buildings.

“We can’t take existing restrooms offline because the number of fixtures is a code requirement for a building … and the counts were based on building occupancy,” Patterson said.

Certain single-occupancy bathrooms, such as in the Marcus Welcome Center, are private. When asked if those would become accessible to students, Patterson said that would also be hard to do. 

“If it’s within an office suite, it becomes difficult because of security,” Patterson said. “But anything else (that) is on public corridor would be accessible to anybody.”

Hopes for next semester

Jacques said that depending on his schedule, he would potentially become an SGA senator this fall, where he would work to pass a bill ensuring gender-neutral bathrooms are in all new campus buildings — preferably on every floor. 

Jacques said this would help ensure that the “spoken word rule” on campus is followed. He said it would also prevent the issue he faces in Wallace Hall, where many of his classes are on the third floor, and the one gender-neutral restroom is on the first floor.

“That’s a 15-minute bathroom break, at least, that I’m missing class, versus being able to walk out in the hall and go to the bathroom on my floor like everyone else,” Jacques said.

Jacques said the Wallace Hall bathroom was locked, until his academic adviser, Angela Blackerby, talked with Facilities, a process that took a few weeks. Jacques said this relates to students needing to use single-stall restrooms closed to the public. 

“(The Wallace Hall bathroom) has now been open, and (Blackerby) still checks it every day,” Jacques said. “I have hope that the university and staff will help those who need access to these (private) bathrooms to get it.”

Martins, who supports Jacques’ potential bill, also hopes to ensure the Shocker Success Center will have a gender-neutral bathroom. Patterson said the new Shocker Success Center will have three single-occupancy restrooms.

“One thing that (SGA President) Iris (Okere) and I have been pretty big on is SGA supports all students,” Martins said. “So if there is a dire time of need where there is clearly things happening in our world … I’m genuinely here to advocate for you and to help you.”

Jacques and SGA members also discussed the Heskett Center’s two gender-neutral bathrooms, which lack lockers or storage areas, unlike the gendered bathrooms.

“One of the big things is that people that work at the gym get really annoyed when you’re carrying around all of your crap and blocking all the areas,” Jacques said. 

E James, a transmasculine Spectrum member who uses he/they pronouns, said that he hopes administration can take the lead on gender-neutral bathrooms so transgender students can have a safe place to go.

James also suggested that other students don’t call out transgender students for using their preferred bathrooms and point out the gender-neutral bathrooms if asked.

Jacques said Spectrum’s goal this semester is to make students aware of resources and provide support. Spectrum also plans to host an inclusive swim night.

“Just having those moments of visibility and reprieve from constantly being in concern of whether it’s a safe space for you to be yourself, I think it’s really important,” Jacques said.

Jacques said he also appreciates how Martins has already been “an active ally” by creating the campus graphic before approaching him. 

I’m excited to get to work with Iris and Sophie and hopefully continue to make positive changes on campus, absent what’s going on at a state level,” Jacques said. 

Gender-neutral bathroom map

Martins said SGA’s graphic of the gender-neutral bathrooms is still being revised, but she shared the most recent version with The Sunflower.

SGA and Spectrum identified that the following buildings have single occupancy bathrooms, notated as accessible to people with disabilities. These locations can be viewed on the map above as well. 

Rhatigan Student Center – four; one on lower level and all on three floors

Wilner Auditorium – lobby

Morrison Hall – first floor

Shocker Hall – ground level (north of Groundhouse)

Heskett Center – ground level (shower accessible)

Marcus Welcome Center – second floor (private)

Eck Stadium – ground level, baby changing station

Heskett Center – ground level (shower accessible)

Engineering Building – first floor (near main staircase)

SGA and Spectrum identified these buildings as having single occupancy bathrooms, but did not notate them as accessible to people with disabilities. These locations can be viewed on the map above as well. 

Charles Koch Arena – ground level (multiple locations), baby changing station

Corbin Education Center – second floor

Jabara Hall – north end of basement, second floor

McKnight Art Center – second floor

Media Resource Center – main lobby

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About the Contributor
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, Former news editor
Courtney Brown was one of the news editors for The Sunflower during the 2023-2024 year. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.

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  • S

    Susan CastroJul 27, 2023 at 1:40 pm

    All the bathrooms in Fiske Hall are now single occupancy, gender-inclusive, and ADA compliant. We have a baby changing station in the bathroom on the lowest level.

    Reply
  • A

    Angela PaulJul 7, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    Ablah Library also has a gender neutral bathroom. It’s in the 24-hour study room.

    Reply