Research team pushes for gender-neutral restroom in O’Donnell


Mitchell Allred

A research team in O’Donnell Hall is pushing for gender neutral bathrooms.

Seventeen buildings across New Mexico State University’s main campus have gender-neutral restrooms and a team in O’Donnell Hall is working to add the College of Education to the list. 

Counseling and Educational Psychology Professor Barbara Gormely and her research team of nine students decided to push for gender-neutral restrooms in O’Donnell Hall this semester after Gormely had students express their concerns to her and to other faculty in the College of Education. 

Former Dean of Education John Pope Davis was approached in Spring 2018 about designating a restroom in O’Donnell as gender-neutral since the campus lacks these types of facilities in the area that O’Donnell is located.  

The College’s Executive Council voted in favor of the designation—however, the actual designation has been stagnant ever since. 

Gormely said she thinks there are reasons a standing bathroom never became neutral.  

“I believe it may have gotten stuck there, in part because of turnover in the administration of the College of Education, but also because there is a building addition planned that could add a new gender-neutral bathroom,” Gormely said.  

This semester, Gormely and her research team created a petition to see how students who are frequently in O’Donnell would feel about designating one of the current bathrooms in the hall as gender-neutral instead of waiting three years for the building to get renovated.  

If the building could not get immediately renovated, their next ideas were to get a gender-neutral sign that would replace a women’s restroom sign and have around 100 students sign in favor of it—in total, over 300 students signed the petition, Gormely said.  

 “What we want is a temporary place designated—Just a temporary sign. One of the women’s bathrooms wouldn’t matter because there’s no urinal stalls anyways, so if 300 people that are here a lot are okay with it, there’s floors where there’s two bathrooms anyways,” Gormley said. 

The process to designate a restroom is still ongoing, and Gormley hopes that something can be done by the time Spring 2019 comes around. For change to occur, different parties such as Facilities, LGBT+ Programs, and other representatives around NMSU must meet to discuss future options at this time. 

When asked how she felt about the possibility of changing a women’s bathroom into a gender-neutral one, secondary education major Annie Hernandez said she spends most of her time in O’Donnell and would support the change.  

“If one of the restrooms was a designated gender-neutral restroom, I would fully support it. We have been using the restroom alongside people from all different walks of life all of our lives—At the end of the day, I will always advocate for a safe environment for all students—not just those who abide by cis-norms,” said Hernandez.  

According to LGBT+ programs website, it is policy that all new buildings at NMSU, in addition to the already 17 inclusive buildings, will have at least one gender-neutral restroom.  

Director of LGBT+ Programs, Zooey Sophia Pook explained the efforts of students, faculty, and staff for more inclusive restrooms at NMSU.  

“There has been a notable and serious push for more gender-neutral restrooms on campus that have included petitions by students, faculty, and staff. Older buildings such as O’Donnell are being looked at by administration and university architects for possible renovations to include gender neutral restrooms,” Pook said. 

As a cisgender woman, Gormely used her trip to the Gila Cliff Dwellings during the Thanksgiving break to explain why she thinks NMSU, more specifically O’Donnell Hall, can make the move towards gender-neutral restrooms. She encountered gender-neutral restrooms during her trip. 

“That’s all we want is the same thing that the National Forest does—it’s just practical, it’s just normal—What’s wrong with that? I’m cisgender, born female and consider myself a woman. Everywhere I go in the whole world, I can find a restroom that says ‘women’s’ and I don’t have to think about that and I feel so lucky, but most people don’t even think about it—it’s just automatic,” Gormley said. 

As a representative of the College of Education, Gormely acknowledges that a transition of bathrooms may be confusing for some, but with education, the campus can be fairer for all students.  

“No one who has to use the bathroom should have to worry if there’s a place for them to go or have to read a sign and think ‘I’m not welcome in the other place.’ It’s a basic human right and I just think most people haven’t thought about that or been educated about it and that’s okay—We’re the College of Education—we should be helping educate people. If we can’t even get one—what does that say?” Gormely said. 

A list of gender-neutral restroom locations at NMSU can be found online

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