On March 6, in efforts to make Chatham a more inclusive space for all members of the community, 11 bathrooms across the University’s three campuses were changed from single-sex to non-gender specific.
This change took place, according to Zauyah Waite–Dean of Students–in efforts to “demonstrate the institutional value of inclusivity as demonstrated by our non-discrimination policy”, which promises equal opportunity and affirmative action to everyone, regardless of personal differences. “As a result of this statement we are committed to creating a safe space for all members of our community which include community members who identify as transgender on the gender spectrum”, Waite said.
As of now the signage outside of the bathrooms is the only thing that has changed, and the transition has had no impact on the contents or structure of the bathroom interiors.
When asked whether or not all of the bathrooms would eventually be transitioned to non-gender specific, Waite explained that that would definitely not happen, saying, “This number is adequate to serve the expected need we currently have on campus. Not everyone would feel comfortable using a non-gender specific restroom and the needs of those individuals need to be respected and served as well.” She further explained that this should not impact students’ daily routines, as “there are sufficient restrooms for all to utilize regardless of gender.”
To offset any concerns that this transition was in in preparation for Chatham College for Women’s possible co-education future, Waite emphasized the fact that the future of the undergraduate program–whether it be all women or co-educational–had no impact on the bathroom decision whatsoever.
She explained that Chatham has considered making this change before, and that they simply felt that this was a good time to move forward with it. She additionally pointed out that nine of the bathrooms in question were men’s rooms before the transition occurred, as further evidence of this point.
Waite also pointed out that Chatham is not alone in this shift towards non-gender specific restrooms, as many neighboring institutions have been moving in the direction for years. Additionally other public entities, like the city of Philadelphia, have recently made efforts to provide more gender-neutral options to fulfill the needs of all citizens. According to Waite, “It is just time and right for Chatham to do the same.”
When asked, several members of the Chatham community declined to offer comments or opinions regarding the transition. Despite this, the general attitude among the student body towards this change seems to be a neutral one.
Any students or other members of the Chatham community who do have who concerns about this change can direct their questions to Dean Waite at ZWaite@Chatham.edu.
However, Waite emphasized that this was not an effort to make anyone feel uncomfortable. “The primary purpose of doing this now is that we have community members who identify as transgender on the gender spectrum” Waite said. “Their needs are important [and need to be addressed] and this is Chatham’s way of doing so.”