When Cooper Union student activists forcibly removed the gender identifiers on restrooms around the small campus last fall in the name of transgender solidarity, its acting president did nothing.
Now he’s rewarding their vandalism by making it policy.
Inside Higher Ed reports that the New York college has made all its restrooms gender-neutral and replaced the gendered signs with layout descriptions: “Restroom With Urinals and Stalls,” “Restroom With Only Stalls” or “Restroom Single Occupancy.”
Acting President Bill Mea is also warning students not to practice “gender policing” – that is, having the common reaction of surprise and discomfort when seeing someone of the opposite sex in a multi-user restroom.
He wrote to the community:
We have always been ahead of our time and we must continue being leaders on issues of social justice.
We, who are in positions of power, have the obligation to not only stand with those without power, but to stand in front of them, clearing a path for them to walk. I cannot change the outside world and how it treats transgender and gender non-conforming people, but I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings. Please know that my decision comes from a personal sense of obligation to others, which is a reflection of my beliefs and, I believe, an extension of the beliefs held by our founder.
He said he didn’t put the names back on the restrooms after they were vandalized by activists “in order to see how we all reacted,” which was mostly no reaction. (Lesson to activists: If your rulebreaking is popular, you’ll get away with it.)
Mea hints that students could face disciplinary action if they make those of the opposite sex or transgender students feel uncomfortable in the newly “degendered” multi-user restrooms:
I also ask that none of us practice gender policing, where we attempt to restrict someone from using the same restroom we are using or make them feel uncomfortable for doing so. If you feel uncomfortable sharing a restroom, then the single-occupancy restrooms will now be available to you.
The policy doesn’t extend to locker rooms because Cooper Union doesn’t have any, Inside Higher Ed says.
Campus Pride, the LGBT college activist group, said Cooper Union was the first college it knew of that had made “every campus restroom in academic buildings gender inclusive.”
Cooper Union’s move stands in contrast to the George Washington University law school’s decision to convert a multi-user men’s room to “all gender” but add a lock and encourage students to use it one at a time – a change that brought its own vandalism.