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MSU adds gender neutral restrooms

By Becca Schimmel  rschimmel@paducahsun.com

Murray State University recently designated three single-person restrooms as gender neutral restrooms. They can be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression. 

According to Jody Cofer Randall, Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender (LBGT) program coordinator for Murray State University, these restrooms are important to a segment of the university population.    

"We have transgender and gender non-conforming students at Murray State, and that is an indisputable fact," Randall said. "We have an obligation to make sure that certain needs are accommodated."

Last September, the Student Government Association passed a resolution for LGBT equality that called for gender neutral bathrooms and other policy changes.  

The resolution stated:

"The Student Government Association of Murray State University supports making Murray State University more inclusive by providing students a policy that allows a preferred first name on the Murray State University myGate system, and will help prevent our students from being treated differently. Be it also resolved that the Student Government Association of Murray State University supports including partners of Murray State University employees in the current tuition waiver policy for undergraduate tuition waivers. Be it also resolved that the Student Government Association of Murray State University supports making more gender neutral or family restroom facilities available to the Murray State University students and campus community."

The university updated its policy regarding preferred first-name choices and promotion of diversity and tuition waivers for spouses and partners of university employees shortly after the resolution passed.

According to a voluntary survey of 592 students during the 2013-2014 academic year, 10.2 percent identified as LGBT, 2.2 percent as other and 3.6 percent preferred not to answer. 

"We're at a place with Murray State where we have made a lot of progress. It's institutionally recognized now that we have an LGBT community," Randall said. "There is a need for these kinds of things, whether it is the restrooms or housing. If you want to be competitive as a university in 2014, you have to be talking about this." 

When considering which restrooms would change designation, Randall asked the chief facilities officer for a listing of all restrooms and then narrowed it down to only single-person restrooms that could be accessible by students. Three were chosen and the signs were updated to signal gender neutral use.

Vice President of Student Affairs Don Robertson said that gender neutral bathrooms are not uncommon and that universities all over the country are providing this option for students. 

"I think it's just another positive sign of inclusion and recognizing the needs that are there," Robertson said.

"I think it also fits into our diversity plan. We want this to be a community and environment where everyone feels welcomed." 

Contact Becca Schimmel, a Paducah Sun staff writer. at 270-575-8652. 

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