WATCH ABOVE: Another university in Edmonton is taking steps forward when it comes to gender diversity. Lisa Wolansky reports.
EDMONTON – In hopes of creating a more inclusive and safe environment for students, MacEwan University now has 16 all-gender washrooms.
The washrooms were unveiled on Friday, with new signs that indicate the facilities are accessible to anyone, no matter their gender or self-identification.
“University is a time of growth, learning, discovery and finding one’s way in the world. We are happy to be part of that process,” said Cathryn Heslep, vice-president of Student Services. “We have faculty and staff, as well as many students who are questioning, in transition and in fact may have gone through transitions.
“We felt as a public institution in an urban university that it’s a very important step to take. And it was basically a no-brainer.”
The change comes following a request by the Students’ Association of MacEwan University. SAMU President Cameron McCoy said the student association was approached by several students interested in seeing gender-neutral washrooms on campus.
“There was a large appetite to create a space that was open for all students,” said McCoy. “Basically it’s single washrooms … so it’s not a large-scale one where a number of students can come at the same time.”
Leading up to the change, the university consulted with Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of Program Services with the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta. The U of A currently has 60 all-gender washrooms, and gender-inclusive housing and residence options for students. Wells commends the move made by MacEwan.
“With the great work that they’re doing to make their campus more gender inclusive I think we’re seeing a real change, not only in the province, but across the country in terms of, ‘What does it really take for institutions to do to ensure that those values of inclusiveness don’t just stay in our policies but live everyday on our campus and in our practices,'” said Wells.
The university also spoke with Marni Panas, an engagement and patient experience professional who is a member of the transgender community. Panas said the move by MacEwan shows real leadership.
“This tells you right away that this is a safe place, that it’s an inclusive place, that I will feel comfortable here, that I’m welcome here. And for transgender people, quite often, that isn’t a message that we often hear.
“The sign is small and simple but the message is huge.”
There will be 11 washrooms at the City Centre Campus, four at Alberta College and one at the Centre for the Arts and Communications labelled as gender-neutral.