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College makes strides toward gender-neutral bathrooms

By Carla Cohen
On April 9, 2019

 Signs like this one have been placed by bathrooms across campus.                           Photo by Carla Cohen

 

Some LGBTQ students have expressed concern for their safety on the MCCC campus, leading administratrs to start plans for gender-neutral bathrooms.

An e-mail went out to students and faculty last month raising concerns after LGBTQ students were harassed in a campus bathroom.

 “I feel like, if you’re going to go to school and walk around campus to get from different buildings, you need to feel like you’re not going to be targeted; you need to feel safe where you’re going,” Hannah Worden, an MCCC student, said.

English professor Carrie Nartker, who teaches Gender Studies courses, raised the issue this winter. 

“My students brought this to my attention. It’s not just transgender students who are being harassed or bullied; students from the LGBTQ+ community in general are also experiencing harassment,” Nartker said.


Charlie Gullet, an MCCC student who prefers they/them pronouns, said they know students who have been affected by this personally and have faced bullying on campus. The students have chose to remain anonymous for their safety.


“I think people are uncomfortable and they don’t like change,” Gullet said.


She said every trans person has their own story.


“I know it can be hard, especially when you have someone who might be male to female, some women are just worried that something might happen to them,” Gullet said.


“You might have someone that’s female to male or just even non-binary and they just don’t know which one they are comfortable with.”


All types of bullying, regardless of sex, gender, or orientation, will not be tolerated on campus, Human Resources Director Molly McCutchan made clear in last month’s e-mail.


“There is no part of our campus more personal than the restroom, as everyone should feel comfortable and safe. Please note, ALL students and employees are permitted to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity,” McCutchan wrote in the e-mail.


The e-mail continued to state that the college has policies in place to protect students and faculty, and any behavior not complying with that should be brought to her attention.


McCutchan said there are plans for gender-neutral bathrooms.


“The college is currently researching the renovation of single-occupancy gender-neutral facilities,” she said.


One of the unisex bathrooms is projected to be in the lobby of the A Building, she said, and others are planned for the new East-West Tech buildings.


Nartker said new bathrooms and anti-discrimination policies may not be enough.


“Part of my concern is that while there are policies in place to prevent bullying, I don’t see how those policies will help protect students or make them feel safe,” she said. “As I said in my e-mail to our Human Resources director, and then to the general campus community, policies are not a panacea.”


The current policies prohibit discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying.

The illegal discrimination policy states: “It is therefore the policy of the College that no employee or qualified person participating in a College sponsored program, service, or activity shall be discriminated against because of race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, marital status, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, height, or veteran status.”


Violating school policy, including bullying, may result in disciplinary action, including expulsion, McCutchan said.


J.T. Vandyne, another MCCC student, thinks repercussions are needed, but that they should be situational.


“I would have to leave that up to administration, it depends on what’s really going on,” he said.


One of the issues can be the reluctance of victims of harassment or bullying to report the situation to the administration. They may want to stay anonymous. 


Melissa Grey, professor of Psychology and adviser to the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, said the GSA can be part of the solution. 


“The GSA has been a place of support and information for people for what their options might be or support in helping a person by accompanying them to make a complaint or develop strategies to deal with harassment,” she said.


Grey added that all students can be part of making the campus more comfortable for everyone. 


“I think a lot of people don’t want to be hurtful to others, and that’s a good place to start,” she said. “Going to a website like the National Center for Transgender Equality, or the national LGBTQ task force, and reviewing some of their guidelines on how to be supportive and un-biased.


The main issue is being respectful and not offending your peers, she said.


“When interacting with people who you think are transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, or who are out as such, to educate yourself to be supportive and affirming rather than accidently expressing bias,” Grey said.


If you or someone you know have questions or issues with your safety on campus, Molly McCutchan, director of Human Resources can be contacted by e-mail at mmccutchan@monroeccc.edu or by phone at 1-734-384-4245.

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