Editor’s note: More than 500 copies of this open letter, bearing original unique Eastern Michigan University faculty, staff and student signatures, were received by The Eastern Echo on April 10.
There are a few basic needs that humans have: food, shelter, water and a place to relieve themselves safely. For many people on Eastern Michigan University’s campus, finding such a place to use the restroom is not only difficult, but also impossible in many instances. For people with disabilities, parents with children, those with religious restrictions and some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and faculty, using the restroom on our campus can be much more challenging than it should be. These members of our community are important and deserve our consideration.
While the administration has discussed implementing policies which would provide universal access restrooms in all newly constructed or renovated buildings, the Board of Regents has not adopted this policy. Both the Science Complex (Mark Jefferson) and Pray-Harrold have received extensive, costly renovations since this policy has been discussed. Shockingly, neither one of them were retrofitted with even a single universal access restroom facility.
Eastern prides itself as one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly schools in the nation. However, we should look at that evaluation a little more closely. We lack many important policies to ease the attendance of transgender students, universal access restrooms being one of them. We are, frankly, an LGB-friendly school only. For gender-nonconforming students, the bathrooms can be scary, if not outright dangerous. We should strive to reach the quality of schools like New York University, which has gender-neutral restrooms that are safe for everyone.
However, these universal access restrooms go even further and provide spaces for families. Whether a breastfeeding mother or a parent with one or more toddlers, private spaces in which to care for those children are absolutely necessary. In actuality, universal access restrooms help us all, including those students with disabilities, parents with children and those with religious restrictions.
In short, members of our campus community should not have to go all the way to the Student Center to find a comfortable and safe bathroom. EMU should take the needs of all students and faculty into account and honor its future renovation policy.