In an email last Saturday to Lawn and Range residents, University Dean of Students Allen Groves announced that a bathroom on the West Lawn will be designated as gender-neutral.
The announcement came in response to two Lawn residents and fourth-year students, Mitchell Wellman and Drew Kiser, who began advocating the project when they moved onto the Lawn this past fall. Eventually, with help from Dean Groves and the Senior Resident of the Lawn, DeAnza Cook, the request came into fruition.
Wellman explained the necessity for the alteration, saying, “We’re trying to broaden the scope of who is welcome to the Lawn community by way of this project, and of course the other thing is that we talked about how some of our guests have access to these restrooms and may not identify as one gender.”
The West Lawn men’s bathroom was chosen because it contains three private bathroom chambers. The gender-neutral bathroom will be designated as one of those three private chambers, while the other two will continue to be for male residents.
The addition of the gender-neutral bathroom comes at a precarious time for gender rights across the country, which makes the addition all the more meaningful. This past month, President Trump ended Obama-era protections for transgender students. In doing so, he rescinded safeguards for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. The head civil rights officials from the Justice and Education Departments rejected the former nondiscrimination laws that had required schools to allow transgender students their choice of bathroom.
Amidst the political uncertainty on a national level, Kiser said that UVa administration did a great job implementing the gender-neutral bathroom.
“What impressed me the most is the speed with which the administration took our initiative, listened to what we were asking for, and responded in kind,” Kiser said. “This gave me a lot more faith in the relationship between the administration and us students.”
The University is currently working to replace the signage for the bathroom, but all Lawn residents will be able to gain access to the bathroom.