This month Duke will begin shifting some single-stall restrooms in university buildings to gender-neutral facilities that can be used by all Duke community members or visitors of any gender identity.
The goal of the project, which began last fall, is to have at least one gender-neutral, single-stall restroom in every university building that already has single-stall restrooms. Restrooms with more than one stall will not be changed due to City of Durham code requirements. As part of the process, all residence halls on East and West campuses will have at least one gender neutral restroom; Devil’s Bistro and the Marketplace will also have at least one gender neutral restroom.
An example of new signage for gender-neutral bathrooms. Additional signs will also designate accessible bathrooms.
Duke Health officials are assessing designating gender-neutral bathrooms on the medical center campus.
“We’ve made progress around lots of issues related to race and gender, so this is a recognition on our part of the broad range of identities that are part of our rubric of diversity,” said Ben Reese, vice president of the Office for Institutional Equity. “It’s symbolic of our commitment to inclusivity in a broad sense and recognizing the fluidity of gender and sexual identity.”
The project was spurred by student organizations Blue Devils United and Duke Student Government, who partnered with leadership from Facilities Management, the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Duke’s Disability Office and Office for Institutional Equity. Duke is among several peer institutions that have also implemented similar initiatives, including Princeton University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and more.
Facilities Management staff is conducting an inventory of all single-stall bathrooms across about 200 buildings in order to determine the total number of restrooms that will be changed. As that work takes place, the project will begin in mid-May with the adjustment of six restrooms – four in the Allen Building and two in the Bryan Center.
At Duke, no new restrooms are being constructed and current restrooms are not being renovated. Existing single-stall restrooms will receive new signage developed in partnership with several offices and agreed to by the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, student groups, Facilities Management and senior administration.
Buildings without an existing unisex bathroom may have single-stall restrooms that are currently labeled for men or women. In these cases, at least one of them will be designated as gender neutral, which may require hardware upgrades to allow for new locks.
Nick Antonicci, director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, said the gender-neutral bathrooms are more than just a step in the right direction for transgender and gender-nonconforming members of the campus community, but are a benefit for families or caregivers who may need to accompany a child or loved one into the bathroom.
“Having this option is one step toward creating a more inclusive campus community and reduces a barrier of anxiety for transgender and gender-nonconforming people,” he said. “It will allow folks to spend mental time and energy on what they’re here for, which is to succeed in research, be a student and support our community.”
Throughout the process, Facilities Management staff will work with building managers to ensure Duke community members are informed and aware of any project impacts during the process.