The Maneater

Biggest university achievement: Inclusive housing, bathrooms

The new housing and bathroom options will help make more students feel welcomed at MU.

The project initially known as Virginia Avenue South has been a long time coming. First, the trees had to be removed to clear the space for a new hall. Then, workers started to dig deep to lay the foundation for what would become the latest addition to MU’s residence halls. After two years of construction, Gateway residence hall will open its doors to students in the fall.

Sure, it looks like any other residence hall on the outside. Yet, Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor has been working for several years to make sure it was anything but. In fall 2015, his vision for gender-neutral housing options at MU will finally come to fruition. There will be gender-neutral bathrooms in Gateway and gender-neutral suites on the first floor of College Avenue residence hall.

For ResLife, it’s all about providing students with options. Incoming freshmen started selecting housing in mid-April, and they have options to choose from including choosing to live on a floor with gender-neutral bathrooms or in a gender-neutral suite.

The two options are a first in MU’s 176-year history. In fact, MU is only the second Southeastern Conference school to provide such an option and the first to allow incoming freshmen to live there. Although it hasn’t been easy to implement and only time will tell how the new options are received, it’s a step toward inclusivity, especially for gender non-conforming or transgender students.

LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Struby Struble told the Maneater in January that the new housing option would be a safe space for all students.

“I think because there’s a lot of negativity around gender non-conforming and transgender people in our culture at large, having a space that’s openly transparent about their support of all students is really important,” Struble said.

Before this upcoming fall, gender non-conforming and transgender students had to contact ResLife to have special accommodations made available. The new housing allows these students to choose their housing through ROAR, just like everyone else.

The first floor of College Avenue residence hall will be home to four suite-style gender-neutral rooms, with a total of 16 beds. These rooms are open to all students, regardless of gender.

Gateway residence hall, which will open this fall, will have gender-neutral bathrooms on floors 2-5. These bathrooms will have five fully locking stalls with floor to ceiling walls between each. Three of the five will include a toilet, shower, and sink while the other two will have a toilet and shower.

Overall, ResLife operates 26 housing options that provide a community for more than 7,000 students. That’s 25 percent of the total campus population. From the staff to the students, ResLife has a vast impact, especially on incoming freshmen.

The gender-neutral housing option will show incoming freshmen that MU accepts and embraces people of all identities and backgrounds. After all, it’s a notion that was physically built into the new hall. Gateway had to be specifically constructed to allow for the gender-neutral bathrooms. ResLife honored its mission of providing a "safe and secure environment" for all students by investing in the new gender-neutral options.

And that’s an achievement worth applauding.

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