Editorial Board

SUNY-ESF shouldn’t lose its momentum on gender-neutral, disability-friendly bathroom updates

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

SUNY-ESF is currently evaluating its outdated bathrooms and choosing where to make updates.

SUNY-ESF’s bathrooms are far behind the times.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry still has restrooms that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are significantly more men’s restrooms than women’s, and there aren’t enough gender-neutral bathrooms.

The upcoming summer break presents a perfect time to change that.

At a recent meeting, SUNY-ESF’s Academic Governance body passed a resolution to enact bathroom equity on campus. But not everyone at the meeting was on board.

Some body members argued creating gender-neutral bathrooms raised issues of hygiene and would make students — especially women — feel unsafe. This unfounded argument blindly ignores the real issues of bathroom safety.

When it comes to creating gender-neutral bathrooms, straight, cisgender individuals aren’t the ones at risk. Transgender students feel unsafe in gendered bathrooms. Cisgender students likely won’t feel unsafe in gender-neutral bathroom in the future. Creating gender-neutral bathrooms doesn’t create issues — it only solves them.

After all, other schools in the SUNY system, such as the State University of New York at Geneseo and the State University of New York at Oneonta, have instituted gender-neutral bathrooms without health or safety issues.

And if SUNY-ESF students do feel uncomfortable in a gender-neutral bathroom, they can still have other options. Making every bathroom gender-neutral isn’t necessary or cost-effective. The SUNY-ESF administration should map out convenient locations for gender-neutral restrooms so students don’t have to travel across campus just to use the bathroom comfortably.

Other Academic Governance body members argued the money spent revamping bathrooms would be better spent elsewhere. But campus bathrooms are severely outdated and still reflect a time when SUNY-ESF was a male-dominated school.

In Illick Hall — which is home to the university’s largest academic department, the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology — there are 38 places where men can use the bathroom but only eight for women. This disparity demonstrates the severity of the situation and shows that the administration cannot keep pushing off renovations.

Likewise, many SUNY-ESF restrooms don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is simply unacceptable. Using the bathroom is a basic human right, and every restroom should accommodate every person regardless of ability.

The administration must have its audit results and plans for renovation ready to present to the Academic Governance body at its May 11 meeting, so it’s clear the administration knows it needs to do something. And once plans are announced, the administration must turn these plans into action.

There’s momentum at SUNY-ESF for bathroom equity. But it’s easy to let that momentum fade away. Advocates must keep the topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds to ensure the university revamps its bathrooms in time for the fall semester.

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