New dorm breaks bathroom norm

The gender-neutral bathrooms are designed by ResLife to accommodate every student on campus.

In fall 2015, Virginia Avenue South residence hall will be home to gender-neutral bathrooms.

The gender-neutral bathrooms will include three communal sinks and five areas with a shower and toilet behind a door.

“It is conceivable that men and women can occupy the same bathrooms while still having the complete privacy when taking a shower or going to the bathroom,” Minor said.

The building will be home to 331 residents in a community-style living arrangement.

“Virginia Avenue is a project that’s been approved and is currently in design,” said Frankie Minor, director of the Department of Residential Life. “It just went out for bid this summer, and the construction will begin very shortly.”

Virginia Hall’s bathrooms were designed to accommodate an acceptable level of privacy by separating the showers and toilets from the community-style area that includes sinks and mirrors.

“One of the things we had to take into consideration was students tend to have demand on bathroom facilities in chunks of time,” Minor said. “Everyone’s getting ready for class in the morning or getting ready to do something in the evening, so we wanted to make sure we didn’t tie up all of the fixtures included in the new bathrooms.”

The restroom facilities in Virginia Hall will all be gender flexible. It is both more convenient and cost efficient for the ResLife to have the same design throughout one residence hall.

One main purpose of the new bathroom design is to give students more options, Minor said.

“How students choose to use those facilities and how they are used to create a sense of community are something we will discuss when students come forward,” Minor said. “We just want to give students the option that if they wanted to do something that allowed more flexibility, the facility can accommodate that.”

ResLife hasn’t decided whether or not it will install gender-neutral bathrooms in other dorms.

“At this point, we don’t know what direction we are taking because of how early in the design process we are in,” Minor said. “Students are now back, so we have the opportunity to talk with them about their interests regarding the bathroom setup.”

Freshman Amanda Nero has an optimistic outlook on how the situation will play out.

“As a school that has so many different demographics, there will be some sort of negative response,” Nero said. “But as a population of young, open-minded individuals, I feel the overall reaction will be positive.”

Minor said the bathrooms are important for the comfort of MU’s entire campus.

“We know our transgender and gender-nonconforming students are a small minority of our population, but they are still part of our population,” he said. “We want to make sure they have bathrooms facilities that can accommodate their needs.”

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