While it may not be noticeable at first glance, gender is ingrained in campus and college life.
From roommate selection, restrooms and names on Redbird cards, a reminder of gender and identity is all over. For non-binary students, that is a constant struggle.
“This place is not welcoming for us as we are misgendered multiple times per day due to the lack of diversity training among staff, faculty and students,” President of Pride Val Madro said.
In recent years, Illinois State has made efforts to increase gender inclusion through new online programs for roommate selection.
There are no floors exclusively for gender-neutral housing. Instead, students can select their gender preference and find other students seeking a similar gender preference.
The previous system required that students meet with housing representatives to discuss their gender identity and find appropriate accommodations. Now, they select their identity from the beginning of the process.
“The addition of the ability to indicate your gender identity and select from gender neutral spaces in 2016 has afforded our students the ability to self-select online without having to work with someone in person,” associate director of university Housing Bridget Reeland said.
When a non-binary student selects housing accommodations, they are placed in a gender-neutral room.
Anyone of any gender can select that room as well, Reeland said. While there are gender-neutral rooms, there are no gender-neutral floors.
“Living in the dorms as a non-binary person is not easy at the slightest,” Madro said. “All the floors and rooms are still gendered, which includes bathrooms and roommates. When students sign up, there is no indication of what their floor will be.”
According to a map of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, Watterson Towers is the only dormitory to have gender-neutral bathrooms. They are located on the ground floor and on every third floor of the building’s houses.
The map of available all-gender restrooms is located online. Of the 17 buildings directly on the Quad, four have all-gender restrooms. Nineteen buildings in total have an all-gender
restroom located somewhere in the building.
However, Madro said there is still more work to be done.
“As much as all gender restrooms are a great thing to have on campus, as in the current state, they aren’t very accessible,” Madro said.
“I often settle for using the women’s bathroom instead of using the all gender bathrooms because they aren’t accessible, and I shouldn’t have to settle,” they continued. “They are often placed in hard to find spots in buildings on campus with little direction of its location.”
Plans are in place to add more all-gender restrooms to campus, according to the office of Equal Opportunity. A special committee has been formed since 2017 to address the placement of restrooms, as well as larger goals to increase diversity on campus.
“A big part of the plan was going to different buildings on campus and identifying first where there are large numbers of people moving through,” Director of Media Relations Eric Jome said. “Also identifying facilities that would be easily convertible at this time.”
The all-gender restroom initiative is a part of actions taken by the Campus Climate Task Force, which seeks to improve diversity and resources for underrepresented groups on campus.
“There are a lot of things that we have always continue to do as a campus,” Task Force member and Assistant Director of Media Relations Rachel Hatch said. “I think overall the goal is to create an inclusive environment.”