Among the many changes made to campus over the summer, returning students now have access to several newly converted gender neutral restrooms thanks to a resolution passed by the Student Government Association.
The recommendation for gender neutral restrooms was first proposed to former SGA President Jeremiah Johnson by Jody Cofer Randall, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender program coordinator, in the fall of 2013 and was passed that same year under the name, The Resolution for LGBT Equality.
The resolution states: “Be it also resolved that the Student Government Association of Murray State University supports making more gender neutral or family restroom facilities available to the Murray State University students and campus community.”
In the resolution the SGA also shows LGBT support for allowing Murray State students to enter and use their preferred first name on the MyGate system.
Cofer Randall said it is important that Murray State provides these restrooms to its transgender and gender nonconforming students not only for reasons of comfort and safety, but also in order to attract and be more appealing to potential LGBT students.
“If we don’t do things like (convert these restrooms), we can no longer compete with other universities for these students,” he said.
“We are fortunate now to be ahead of other schools in this region and to be competitive, but we won’t be in a year from now if we don’t keep this up.”
He said every day he receives emails from prospective students inquiring about what sort of accommodation they can expect on campus and what level of acceptance they can experience at Murray State.
“If you apply the percentages that are commonly accepted by social science researchers for how many people are LGBT in Murray State’s population, it can be anywhere from 438 to 1,094 students that are LGBT,” Cofer Randall said. “And given that, I think it is easily justifiable that we are providing this service and this access to our students. That is a significant part of Murray State’s enrollment.”
The three restrooms, located on the first floor of the North Business Building near the elevators, the second floor of Wells Hall near the LGBT Programming office and the first floor of the Curris Center near the SGA office, are single usage restrooms with locks and can be used by all students.
These restrooms were already in existence and required only locks and new signs designating them as gender neutral. Purchasing and installing the locks and signs cost under $100 per restroom.
Students’ reactions to these new restrooms has been mixed.
Cody Ball, freshman from Mayfield, Ky., said he wished the SGA had either left the restrooms as they were or used the money to improve all the restrooms on campus.
“Some of the other restrooms could use some work,” Ball said. “I think (SGA) could have done something better with the money they had and could have focused on a different issue that helps more students.”
Sarah Murphy, senior from Owensboro, Ky., said she thinks the conversion of the restrooms is a good idea, but that there are other priorities on campus that are important as well.
“I’m fine with them changing the restrooms,” Murphy said. “It’s great. At the same time though, I think there are larger priorities like fixing the broken overhead window in the Curris Center. That’s a real safety issue.”
Will White, sophomore from Murray, said he was in favor of the new changes.
“If it helps students acquiesce to Murray and feel more comfortable, then it’s worth it,” White said.
Cofer Randall said there are plans in the works to install more gender neutral restrooms in Sparks Hall and Faculty Hall as they are high traffic areas on campus.
He said he has also been approached already by one residential college spokesperson looking to convert a restroom in their lobby to gender neutral.
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer