Gender-specific “clustered” bathrooms will soon be relics of the past for Newing College as Binghamton University prepares to create gender-inclusive bathrooms for residents in the 2020-21 academic year.
On Nov. 7, an email was sent out to all Newing College residents outlining the changes in the dorms. According to the email, all clustered bathrooms will be reclassified to be gender-inclusive, meaning that residents will still share bathrooms with “cluster-mates” next door or across the hall, which may now include individuals of any gender identity.
Katy Perry, area director of Newing College, wrote in an email that the changes were long-awaited and highly requested by residents.
“We regularly receive requests from students for more gender-inclusive options in housing,” Perry wrote. “This initiative is a direct response to those requests and will allow us to better meet the needs of all students. This is something that has been under consideration for a number of years.”
The bathroom model has been implemented in both Old Digman Hall and College-in-the-Woods where bathrooms are private and single-use, like in Newing College. Perry said the change should not have much effect on the experience of students in Newing College and has been successful in other communities.
“Since this is a pilot initiative, the change will roll out slowly with the majority of clusters remaining all-male or all-female clusters area-wide,” Perry wrote. “Given that the bathrooms are private and single-use, we do not anticipate it will significantly alter the student experience of living in Newing [College], as students often allow guests and friends of different genders to use these bathrooms even under the current model.”
Noah Mandelman, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said the upcoming changes will not affect his housing choice for next year.
“I don’t necessarily see why there would be a need for it, but if it happened, I don’t think it would bother me,” Mandelman said. “I’m still planning on living in Bingham [Hall] next year, so it isn’t making me want to change my mind.”
Stephen Black, a sophomore majoring in computer science, said he understands the new situation can take some time to get used to.
“I can see why some may be uncomfortable with sharing a bathroom or shower with multiple genders,” Black said. “It can be a problem if we let it be but I think it should become part of our culture, otherwise it creates a gender-based stigma.”
According to Perry, the greatest concern she has seen from students is that the bathrooms remain cluster-use only, rather than available for all residents to use. She expects the results of the pilot will be positive.
“During the [2018-19] academic year, we met with many student groups and constituents in the area who overwhelmingly felt it would be a positive change,” Perry said.
Angel Sipp, a junior majoring in psychology, said residents need to learn to adjust to the changes.
“I think it’s gonna be a good thing,” Sipp said. “I don’t know how others are going to feel, but they are going to eventually have to get over it because it is gonna happen either way.”