NIU May Soon Install More Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Apr 13, 2016

Northern Illinois University is in the early stages of a proposal that would implement gender-neutral bathrooms.

A gender-neutral bathroom located in the Neptune North residence hall at Northern Illinois University
Credit Katie Finlon / WNIJ

NIU’s chief diversity officer Vernese Edghill Walden says the proposal is still in the planning stage, but a draft should be completed sometime during the summer or fall semesters.

Kristen Myers directs the Gender and Woman Studies department at NIU. She says the school has ranked as one of the most LGBT-friendly schools in the past … but the only thing that would help is gender-neutral bathrooms.

“It’s not a new conversation at all, so this isn’t kind of reacting to what’s happening in, you know, current events,” Myers said. “This conversation I’ve heard being discussed for probably four years.”

Walden says that, while the bathrooms could help transgender students or staff, other groups could benefit from them as well.

“So someone, a person with a disability who has an attendant or someone that’s helping them that might be of a different gender, could be able to then utilize those restrooms,” Walden said.

Walden says the total number of bathrooms that would be made gender-neutral will depend on things like available state finances.