Fast Forward Syracuse

Information sessions solicit feedback on bathroom signage, University Place promenade

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

Information sessions on Syracuse University’s Campus Framework were held Friday afternoon.

UPDATED: Oct. 18 at 4 p.m.

Two information sessions on Syracuse University’s Campus Framework were held Friday afternoon as representatives presented options to seek feedback from the audience on bathroom signage and promenade furnishings.

In a classroom in Slocum Hall, less than 30 people attended the session on bathroom signage. A majority of the audience was composed of university faculty, staff and media personnel.

In a brief introductory remark, SU’s Division of Campus Planning Design and Construction Director Joseph Alfieri said 80 private gender-neutral bathrooms were installed over the summer and that there are 708 all-gender bathrooms in place on campus.

Abby Matousek, a representative from design consultant firm Pentagram, presented gender-neutral bathroom signage from various universities on a projected screen. Then, Brittany Cashatt, associate director of the LGBT Resource Center, and Terra Peckskamp, director of the Office of Residence Life, took over the session and solicited feedback from the audience.

The audience gave commentary on the bathroom signs presented, such as a human figure split in half to represent transgender people or a sign to represent a gender-neutral bathroom. One woman said a new sign should be clear to international students and their parents on campus. Another woman said it might be helpful to have multiple languages on signs to avoid confusion on gender-neutral bathrooms. In response, Matousek noted Michigan State University has such an initiative to accommodate international students.

Asked by a man in the audience whether it’s possible to transform all existing bathrooms to gender-neutral, private bathrooms, Aaron Hodukavich, SU’s ADA coordinator, said no.

“We have existing building codes that we still must comply with and the building code hasn’t really caught up with the changing social norms,” Hodukavich said. “We are trying to make as many restrooms on campus gender-neutral while still maintaining compliance with other laws that we still need to comply with.”

Peckskamp added that a diversity of students’ faith traditions and religious practices could have an impact on choosing what kind of bathroom they want to use — traditional single-gender or broader, more inclusive bathrooms.

The Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion identified updating the Campus Access Map, including gender-neutral bathrooms, as its one of 18 recommendations.

Alfieri said in an interview after the session that it was a good way to kick off the process of collecting feedback.

“I will be working with the university staff to try to ensure we get as broad and cross-section of feedback as possible and reach students where they are,” he said. “ … Because we need student feedback, we need feedback from the whole campus community.”

He added the university will be working to install bathroom signs as early as next semester based on the feedback.

The second session shifted toward the discussion on University Place promenade furnishings. About 20 people remained for the second session.

Susannah Ross, a senior associate at a Massachusetts-based architecture firm Sasaki Associates, rolled out four options to be considered on benches placed on “the terrace,” or the area which is higher than the ground leading up to Newhouse 1.

Among the options are circular wooden benches with a back, a wooden table with metal stools, a wooden bench and granite-based benches and wooden benches that are similar to what is already placed on the promenade. She showed images of each option and what the promenade would look like if the benches from the four options were to be placed on campus.

Chuck Merrihew, vice president of advancement and external affairs at SU and a member in the audience, pointed out that all chairs are facing toward the road instead of the building. Ross explained the concept of the design focused on solar exposure to make sure people who sit on the benches feel the sunlight on their faces.

Ross also ruled out heating options for the benches, as it would be “cost-prohibitive.”
Chancellor Kent Syverud unveiled the cost of promenade to be $6 million — $2 million for water mains underneath it and $4 million for construction — at Wednesday’s University Senate meeting.

Alfieri declined to give the specific amount of the cost for the benches, saying the primary focus for now is collecting student feedback.

Ross said she felt the session was interesting.

“I thought the point about, you know, how we are mostly facing the old road was very interesting,” she said. “Again we did that mostly because the solar exposure is so much better if you are facing that direction. But we may think about how we make things more all-around.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Susannah Ross was misquoted. Ross said heating options for the University Place promenade benches would be “cost-prohibitive.” The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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