As North Carolina is causing a lot of controversy over the law that was passed about the LBGTQ+ community, Bill Mea, acting president of Cooper Union College in NYC, decided to take a different approach. According to Inside Higher Ed, he is gender-neutralizing all of the bathrooms on campus.
Different campuses around the country have been changing gender bathrooms to single stalls, gender-neutral bathrooms, or allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender that they identify with. The problem with the last option is that there are still people who will harass those who do not fit the gender stereotypes.
One of the students on campus, who preferred to be called L, told Inside Higher Ed: “Even if it is legal, I have been followed and harassed going into either bathroom because I don’t present as gender conforming. I’ll get assaulted whether it’s illegal or not. … There’s a lot more than can be done, and I don’t want it to feel like the end-all, be-all is making bathrooms degendered. But it is one step, and it’s pretty easy. It’s literally just taking signs down.”
Mea believes that being in NYC allows people to be more open about including everyone. He understands that there are other colleges around the United States that would have a harder time doing this because of the exclusivity and bias that resonates there. Mea made it very clear in an email to his students that while there are a lot of steps that are happening that are making it harder for the LBGTQ+ community in the U.S., it is his responsibility to help everyone feel safe at Cooper Union.
“‘We, who are in positions of power, have the obligation to not only stand with those without power, but to stand in front of them, clearing a path for them to walk,’ Mea wrote in his campus email. 'I cannot change the outside world and how it treats transgender and gender-nonconforming people, but I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings.’”
It is time to make everyone feel welcome on college campuses. No matter the race, sexual orientation, gender, or beliefs of a student, they should not be made to feel uncomfortable.
Lead Image Credit: Cooper Union Building; Ingfbruno via Wikicommons