Many universities have begun adopting gender-neutral bathrooms on their campuses to make their spaces safer and more inclusive for students. This fall semester, four students made it their mission to put Missouri Western on that list.
Students have likely seen flyers in campus restrooms that direct them to an online survey. The poll asked a simple question: "Should there be gender-neutral bathrooms on campus?" The question sparked debate within the community.
The poll was a small part of a much larger project under the direction of seniors Ashey Evans, John Stuart, Julianna Heard and Julia Koch with the goal of adding gender-neutral bathrooms to campus. The project was for a class and began only a few weeks into the semester.
Stuart spoke about the purpose behind their mission and the way the project would impact students on campus.
“Our goal is to try to transform one bathroom in each building to benefit the LGBTQ population so that they have a place to go to the bathroom and feel comfortable and feel safe, because not always do they feel safe going into the gender-specific bathrooms,” Stuart said.
After selecting the topic of their project, the group began doing extensive research regarding the policies of universities that have already implemented gender-neutral bathrooms on their campuses. They then surveyed each bathroom at Missouri Western and opened a poll to the entire student body.
The poll results surprised the group: 107 students responded, with 45.8% opposing gender-neutral bathrooms at Missouri Western and 54.2% supporting the idea.
Upon reflection, the group members critiqued the phrasing of their survey, realizing it may have led to confusion among students. Evans explained the responses she saw and their true intentions.
“Our goal wasn’t to completely change all bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms, and I think that something we found people to misunderstand – maybe because of how we worded it on that survey – people thought that we wanted to change all of the bathrooms to gender-neutral, when realistically, we just wanted to implement one or two gender-nuetral bathrooms in each building and still have the respective gender-specific bathrooms for men and women,” Evans said.
Both Evans and Stuart expressed that, ideally, they would add one gender-neutral bathroom to each building on campus, leaving the remaining gender-specific bathrooms as they are. This would allow students the choice of which bathroom they are most comfortable using.
“We understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we want to make a better and more inclusive place for everybody,” Stuart said.
The group, as well as five others, will give a presentation of their projects at the EmpowerU building on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 9 a.m. The event is open to the public, and students are welcome to attend. After the presentation is complete, the school will decide whether to implement gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
Stuart spoke about how having gender-neutral bathrooms on campus would benefit LGBTQ students.
“We hope that … the LGBTQ community will feel included and welcome and safe and it’ll bring more of their community to the university so we will have a deeper diversity,” Stuart said.