New gender neutral restrooms installed in Buckley Center

By Natalie Rubio-Licht | January 31, 2018 2:36pm

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Two new gender neutral bathrooms have been installed in Buckley Center in response to efforts by senior English major Keaton Gaughan and Title IX Coordinator Lauretta Frederking.

by Olivia Sanchez / The Beacon

*Editor's Note: After this article was published, The Beacon was made aware of another gender neutral restroom and shower that has been available since August 2015 in the Beauchamp Recreation and Wellness Center.

The all-accessible gender-neutral bathroom count on campus is now at five, with two additional restrooms opening up on the first floor of Buckley Center earlier this week.

The bathroom debate has been making national headlines since the passing of North Carolina’s transgender bathroom bill in 2016, but on the University of Portland campus, it has also been a huge focus for senior English major Keaton Gaughan, who has been working to get more gender-neutral restrooms on campus for the past five months. He worked with Title IX Coordinator Lauretta Frederking to put plans into action. Until this change occurred, the only gender-neutral bathrooms on campus that were available to off-campus students were in the St. Mary’s student center. 

The new gender-neutral restrooms were previously designated as faculty restrooms on the first floor of Buckley Center.

“The doors had  ‘men’ and ‘women’ painted on them,” Gaughan said. “They're single-stall and lock from the inside. The problematic issue was the gendered doors.” 

After a Physical Plant inspection discovered asbestos in the doors, the move to replace them became even more obvious. 

“Physical plant ordered new doors on Oct. 5, and I asked them to get doors signs without the gender binary on them,” Gaughan said. “It became the sign that was standard across campus.” 

Although Gaughan has only been involved in this project for the past five months, Frederking said that in the past year there has been conversation among administrators about implementing more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

Gaughan said that although no one was outwardly opposed, it was still a long journey to the conversion of these restrooms.

“The fact that it’s taken five months since I’ve started is pushback enough,” Gaughan said.  “There wasn't pushback as much as small obstacles that were logistical in nature but each one took more time than it should have. It wasn’t pushback as much as much as stalling.” 

In an email to The Beacon, Frederking explained that one obstacle was getting the gender-inclusive door signs approved. 

Title IX Coordinator Laurette Frederking sent this bathroom sign to Keaton Gaughan for approval in October. Graphic courtesy of Keaton Gaughan.

“I wouldn’t call it a challenge, but (Vice President for University Operations) Jim Ravelli wanted to make sure that the signage was ideal,” Frederking said in an email to The Beacon. “He welcomed student input and followed through on their suggestion.”

Gaughan explained that having more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus is a step in the right direction by administration for improving safety and well-being of nonbinary and transgender students on campus. 

“There is a small group (of people) that this directly caters to, a group that is going to be impacted a lot in a good way, finally dignifying our existence here as nonbinary people,” Gaughan said. “It can get really difficult and this is the first step toward progress for bettering this community and the lives of the trans people here.”

There are currently no plans to repurpose or construct any more gender-neutral bathrooms. However, there is discussion of it among administration, according to Frederking.

“Support for our students is always forefront in discussions about our campus and accessibility,”  Frederking said. “New buildings offer obvious opportunities, but we also think about converting existing spaces to meet student needs.”

Gaughan said Frederking’s willingness to listen and help made the process easier. 

“It is important for every person to be safe and be able to thrive as part of access to an education,” Frederking said. “Bathroom accessibility is essential for all of our students, faculty, and staff.”