Memorial now has 10 new gender-inclusive washrooms on its St. John’s campus, with plans to extend the project into further buildings and floors across campus.
Earlier this year, Student Life applied to the Student Development Fund to acquire the resources needed to significantly increase access to gender inclusive washrooms on campus.
“I am delighted with the progress made to date,” said Dr. Jennifer Massey, director, Student Life. “For me, this project reflects my philosophy of education which is grounded in a commitment to equity and social justice. Access to gender-inclusive washrooms is essential for many students, staff, faculty and visitors who express their gender in non-conforming ways.
“Research has shown that washrooms are a key site for emotional and physical abuse and distress,” Dr. Massey continued. “Without access to gender-inclusive washrooms, our transgender community members, as well as some others who identify as LGBTQ, are disproportionately impacted. Thus, this really is a matter of equity. The challenges created by gender-segregated washrooms extend to many others as well, including those who are supported by a caregiver of another gender.”
For Dr. Massey, this issue is meaningful both professionally and personally. She says she has personally experienced the pain the lack of gender-inclusive washrooms can cause.
“My daughter, Olivia, often does not feel safe using a public washroom alone.”
“My daughter, Olivia, often does not feel safe using a public washroom alone,” she said. “Due to the way she often dresses and wears her hair, it is very common for her to be critically examined as she walks in and out of the washroom door and is often told she is ‘using the wrong washroom’ or questioned overtly about whether she is a ‘girl’ or a ‘boy.’
“It is painful and harmful,” Dr. Massey continued. “I feel strongly about this project and am thankful to the team of people who have worked through the logistics. It is important to note that gender-inclusive washrooms will impact many people on campus.”
Dr. Massey especially credits Jennifer Browne, associate director, Student Life, and Margaret Michalak, manager, Space Planning and Administration, and the team in Facilities Management (FM), as well as students from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Students’ Union (MUNSU), with bringing this project from the ideas phase into construction and completion.
The project began in 2014 with a committee, led by Doreen Neville, former associate vice-president (Academic), Planning, Priorities and Programs. The committee was established to designate washrooms for the project and to approve appropriate signage.
The committee included student, faculty and staff representatives, including representatives from MUNSU.
Graphic designers from Memorial’s Division of Marketing and Communications worked on the image for the washroom signage. Various designs were presented and the committee agreed on a final image to signify gender-inclusive washrooms on campus.
“The process was a learning experience and the knowledge gained will help us with future renovations and new construction.”
Keith Bowden, director, engineering and construction, Facilities Management, commends the committee and the FM team who renovated the washrooms on their work.
“Working within the constraints of existing infrastructure can be quite a challenge,” said Mr. Bowden. “It is indeed a credit to this group that they were able to achieve such a great outcome within those constraints. Certainly, the process was a learning experience and the knowledge gained will help us with future renovations and new construction.”
“The gender-inclusive washrooms campaign has been the product of a lot of work by a lot of students and student groups over the years.”
Brittany Byrnes, executive director, campaigns, MUNSU, says the students’ union has been actively involved with the project since its inception, has helped with student consultation across the university and has been instrumental in helping to move the project along from the idea phase into reality.
“The gender-inclusive washrooms campaign has been the product of a lot of work by a lot of students and student groups over the years who put a great deal of their time, energy and thought into advocating for washrooms on campus that are accessible for all genders,” said Ms. Byrnes.
“It’s excellent that Memorial has now begun designating inclusive washrooms, but it’s important we now work to expand the number of inclusive and accessible washrooms on campus, and also to address other areas where gendered identities are imposed on students. The students’ union will continue to work for progress and improvements in these areas, and we’re pleased to see these initial improvements by Memorial.”
Gender-inclusive washrooms are now available in many buildings across the St. John’s campus. To date, work has been completed on the following washrooms:
- Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, level 1: IIC-1026/IIC-1027
- Business building, level 1: BN-1012B
- Computing Services building (T-12) – CS-1013
- Earth Sciences building, level 1: ER-1004
- Education bilding, level 1: ED-1047
- Facilities Management building, level 2: FM-2037A
- St. John’s College, level 2: J-2006
- Spencer Hall, level 4: SP-4002
- University Centre – level 6 : UC-6018 and UC-6026
Work will soon be completed on the following washrooms to develop them into gender-inclusive washrooms:
- Physical Education building, level 3: PE-3001
- Chemistry-Physics building, levels 3 and 4: C-3064 and C-4055
- QEII Library, level 4: L-4017A