By Sarah Lindner Tolerance can be conveyed through many methods, the latest of which is bathroom designation on campus. Eleven university buildings now boast a total of 17 gender-neutral bathrooms: single-stall, unisex lavatories outfitted with the usual amenities.
Dr. Jodi Koslow Martin, vice president for student engagement, explained the reasoning behind the restrooms being a university-wide effort to be welcoming and hospitable to all students and visitors, and recognizes, “there will be students who will be transgender.” The transition was primarily implemented by Elizabeth Snezek, Dean of Students, and physical plant. She cites one of President David Parkyn’s common adages, “We must walk alongside students,” as an influential idea in the process. In order to live out this saying, Koslow Martin elaborates, students must feel comfortable in this space.
Although Queers and Allies had no formal involvement in the gender neutral bathrooms, the student-led group finds them to be a necessary addition. Co-president Sam Van Pykeren articulated his understanding of the change, saying "If you're not catering to those diverse students, then they're not going to come." He also cites North Park's respect for its students of varying backgrounds as a factor.
In expressing these ideas, Koslow Martin feels this kind of welcoming adheres to the open Christian values of the university. She explains how having these facilities are “reflective of the warmth and love that Jesus had in his life.” Van Pykeren affirmed this idea, expanding on the principles of gender and Christianity being intertwined. Christianity is currently in a critical period, a period that can only be resolved by discussion and thought; this is one way of North Park saying "We're open to having this conversation," in Van Pykeren's opinion.
"The movement between gender and above gender makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but you just give it time and it becomes the norm," Van Pykeren said, as the gender neutral restrooms prevent forced choice upon individuals to use either the men's or women's restrooms.
When asked about restroom nomenclature, Koslow Martin stated the administration “looked to our peers at other institutions and professional organizations that set the standards ... and gender-neutral is the preferred language.” While temporary signage is in place, the official placards are set to arrive soon and are marked by both the conventional man and woman figures. This choice was made based on familiarity, says Koslow Martin, “it is what we’re used to looking for.”
The new bathroom designation is filling a campus-wide need for inclusion, as discrimination is headed down the toilet.
The complete list of gender-neutral bathroom locations can be found at: http://www.northpark.edu/About/Exploring-North-Park-University/Campus-and-Facilities/gender-neutral-bathrooms