University News

ResLife to remove Keeney gender-neutral bathroom signs

The signs were mistakenly put up during renovations, said ResLife Dean Richard Bova

Contributing Writer
Friday, October 4, 2013

The Office of Residential Life plans to remove gender-neutral signs outside restrooms in Keeney Quadrangle and reinstate gender-specific restrooms, a decision that has been met with pushback from some students.

Gender-neutral signs outside the restrooms were mistakenly put up during renovations this past summer, but ResLife plans to keep the facilities gender-specific, Senior Associate Dean for Residential Life Richard Bova wrote in an email to The Herald.

“There has been no change in the policy regarding restrooms in Keeney,” Bova wrote, adding that ResLife placed temporary gender-specific signs in the restrooms two weeks ago and will install permanent signs next week.

ResLife told Residential Peer Leaders in Keeney they could temporarily keep the restrooms gender-neutral until gender-specific signs are installed, said Malikah Williams ’16, a Women Peer Counselor who lives in Keeney.

“No one has complained about the gender-neutral restrooms in my unit,” Williams said, adding that the gender-specific temporary signs put up in Keeney are easily removable, since they are laminated and taped over the gender-neutral signs. “Students just rip them off,” she said.

ResLife’s decision to restore the restrooms’ gender-specific status  “came out of the blue,” said Jordan Shaw ’15, a Keeney RPL. “I’m just really disappointed, and I think it’s a setback.”

Shaw said the residents of her first-year unit have not engaged in any inappropriate behavior in the gender-neutral restrooms and that the facilities have been a place of positive interaction. Gender-neutral restrooms are important for trans students and non-gender-conforming students, she said.

Shaw said students, including herself, have been removing the temporary signs because they do not oppose the restrooms’ temporary gender-neutral status.

Matthew Gill, a Community Director for Keeney, wrote in an email to The Herald that the gender-neutral signs were mistakenly placed and were not intended to signal a policy change.

Gender-neutral restrooms are a great way to facilitate a more inclusive environment among students, Williams said.

“You get to know who you’re really living with,” she said. “You’ll see them, you’ll be brushing your teeth with them, you can talk in the bathroom. That’s a source of community-building.”

Williams said she has worked to make sure her first-year residents are comfortable with the restrooms’ gender-neutral status and encourages them to share their concerns with RPLs. “We definitely gave them an option, and they know that it’s a possibility if they feel the need to make them gendered,” she said.

First-years might face certain issues with gender-neutral restrooms, Williams said, adding that some residents may feel more comfortable sharing a “safe space” with other students of their gender.

“It’s always about how students feel, and if there were a point where any of my residents ever felt uncomfortable we would have a conversation and try to remedy that problem,” she said.

Any policy change regarding Keeney restrooms will have to be reviewed by the Residential Council before ResLife can proceed with such a change, Director of Residential Experience Natalie Basil wrote in an email to The Herald.

“This has been the first year that I’ve heard that students in a first-year building are interested in having gender-neutral multi-use bathrooms at such a high level,” Basil wrote, adding that ResLife allows RPLs to share their concerns and advocate for their first-years’ needs.

Students’ removal of the temporary gender-specific signs has led many Keeney residents to use the restrooms on a gender-neutral basis, regardless of ResLife’s plans to reinstate gender-specific signs.

“It’s totally fine with me,” said Eliza Lukens-Day ’17. “It’s just different kinds of interactions you wouldn’t normally have.”

“Right now, all the bathrooms on my floor are completely gender-neutral,” said Christober Bey Music ’17. “It doesn’t bother me in the least bit.”

Keeney RPLs emailed first-years to inform them that permanent gender-specific signs will soon be installed, Music said, adding that the email included a survey with a question asking first-years whether they were comfortable with gender-neutral restrooms.

“It was a little weird to all of us at first,” Music said. “But as we went along with it, we became more comfortable with it.”

Some first-years said their floors currently have both gender-neutral and gender-specific restrooms. Kali Wyatt ’17 said she uses both the women’s restroom and gender-neutral restroom on her floor, but she added that she only showers in the gender-specific facility.

Williams said she believes ResLife could respond to first-years’ support for gender-neutral restrooms by making some facilities gender-neutral as test cases. She added that as a Keeney WPC, she believes the gender-neutral designation has helped her connect with her first-years. “I enjoy having the gender-neutral restrooms because I do get to interact with my residents more.”

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  1. flyhighwithsky says:

    Does no one in Brown understand that their is a Man Code involved here? Bathrooms are not places to interact, they are places to urinate, defecate and wash oneself. At no time is there interaction involved. The only acceptable form of any communication is a slight nod of the head, with zero eye contact involved.

    Guys are not girls, they have no need to engage in flock behavior, they do not ned company in the bathroom, they do not need conversation in the bathroom, they go to the bathroom for privacy and to not have to interact with anyone, male, female, trans or other.

  2. Natalie Serrino, prev WPC Rep says:

    Natalie Basil will used feigned ignorance and bureaucracy to thwart any attempt at making ResLife progressive at every turn.

  3. i believe there is something to having gender specific bathrooms. At an uber liberal place such as Brown, I often find that the liberal response is the ONLY accepted response–and divergents are tagged with labels and condemned for narrow-mindedness. However, the LBGQT+ community is not the majority. They are a welcomed, and accepted minority who should have the option of a gender neutral restroom in the building. Moreover within the LBGQT+ there is a significant population who does identify as either male, or female. Therefore the majority who identify as male or female should be able to go into bathrooms exclusively for their gender.

    I would imagine that no girl wants to defecate next to the guy that they are crushing on down the hall. Nor, I imagine, would a man relieving himself at a urinal feel comfortable should a woman come up next to him and use the adjacent urinal; justifying her actions with the belief that “gender is a spectrum” and urinals should not exclude based on gender.

    Designating all bathrooms as gender neutral restricts their ability to be a safe space.

  4. gender specific bathrooms have nothing to do with sexuality, but, biology……ie, urinals are made for specific biological parts of a gender……most students haven’t said anything for fear of being singled out and criticized…..privacy during showering and toileting is important regardless of what gender you assign yourself too.

  5. Ethan Cutler says:


  6. Jason Lee Bartlett says:

    Something I Would Change About CCRI

    Liberal thinking high schools have gender neutral bathrooms, so why not Community College of Rhode Island? Essentially, high school is just one step lower than community college, so I want to know why the college campus is not thinking one step ahead. Progressive thinking is a must, in this ever changing environment. If somebody wants change, change is possible. How would you feel if somebody told you they did not have a bathroom for your gender available? “No women’s room here, sorry.” or “no mens room here, sorry.” It is pure discrimination. People who transgress gender norms face harassment and violence in gender segregated bathrooms. Everyone deserves equal access to public facilities. Being able to safely use a public restroom is not a special privilege on Providence campus. Not everybody is defined by the stick figures on the door. Just like how handicapped people do not internally define themselves by that wheelchair stick figure. The people this problem effects is people who are transgender, gender-queer, asexual, non-conforming, gender-fluid, and even straight, and others. Just plain everyone has the right to use restrooms.Whenever I go to the bathroom, I have to flip my shoes around in the stall so that if a man comes in, they will not see me peeing sitting down. That is a fear I should not have. It is not that hard for unisex bathrooms to become the law, Philadelphia did it. In a single stall bathroom for this purpose, nothing can happen. Rape will not happen. The people who choose to use this bathroom will not have to worry about closing the lid on the toilet, or even have somebody watch them use the urinal. There should be maps online and available on campus showing where these bathrooms are, preferably next to the women and mens bathrooms. My rights as a student should be implemented, I deserve fair and equal treatment when I poop. The diversity of all students needs to be respected and put into action. Gender neutral bathrooms encourages community building, social interaction and open discussion. It seems so petty that I even have to discuss this, at such a “diverse” college. CCRI Providence should be a trans-friendly college, a queer-friendly college, and a whatever-people-identify-as-friendly college. There is no reason why this should not be successful. Bathrooms are free for all, and should be the least of anyones worries during a school day.

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