Following a fire that set Salt Lake Community College’s Applied Technology Center (ATC) ablaze nearly two years ago, project and fund managers from SLCC announced that the restored facility will welcome students this fall.
Behind the scenes, LGBTQ students and leaders made calls for the restored facility to include all-gender, multi-stalled restrooms, citing SLCC’s commitment to inclusivity in its values, vision and mission statement.
Peter Moosman, coordinator of SLCC’s Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center (GSSRC), said all-gender restrooms create a more equitable restroom experience for students with disabilities, transgender students and students outside of the gender binary while also providing a safer restroom experience for all students.
“These restrooms check so many boxes on equity work. I think the concept of multi-stall, all-gender restrooms freak a lot of people out because there’s not a good understanding of what they are,” Moosman said.
The GSSRC has previously pushed for all-gender restrooms and hopes all SLCC buildings will one day incorporate them.
During a steering committee for the rebuilding of the ATC building, Moosman proposed a design picturing a multi-unit space with two entrances, floor-to-ceiling stalls, and a large wheelchair-accessible stall, resembling the multi-unit design from Stalled!, an advocacy group aimed at standardizing gender and disable inclusive restrooms.
Moosman said the proposed restrooms check off one equity box by being transgender and non-binary friendly, noting the possibility of confusion or harassment as a result of binary restrooms. The college currently holds gender-neutral, single-occupancy restrooms, but Moosman added that these restrooms do not act as a solution.
“You can’t use our restrooms, go use your restroom,” Moosman said. “If someone wants to use those restrooms by their own will, that is awesome, do that. But to have that as the only option is very othering.”
“By creating all-gender restrooms, it removes all of those problems. It doesn’t ‘other’ trans and non-binary folks,” he continued.
Moosman said another benefit of the all-gender, multi-stalled restroom proposal is that it provides an accessible restroom experience for disabled students who receive assistance from caretakers of a different gender or sex than that of the student. If for any reason a single-stalled restroom is not available, it can get tricky, Moosman added.
“If they have to go into a multi-stalled [gendered] restroom, someone is going to be in the wrong restroom, so it becomes an accessibility issue and a disability concern,” Moosman said.
In addition to creating an inclusive space for select students, Moosman said, the proposed structure also makes the restrooms safer for the entire college community.
“These restrooms have two entrances/exits. If a perpetrator enters one door, the victim can go out the other door. It creates exit plans, it creates exit routes, so that people can be safe,” Moosman said. “These restrooms provide a lot more safety for everyone.”
Construction code sets back proposal
In an email chain between SLCC Construction & Plant Operations Project Manager Chris McCarty, Moosman and others related to the project, McCarty stated that Utah’s Department of Facilities and Construction Management (DFCM) code stands in the way of realizing Moosman’s proposal.
The DFCM supervises over 3,785 buildings across the state. These buildings include state agency buildings and all higher education institutions, comprising universities, community colleges and technical colleges, according to the DFCM website.
Every year, the International Code Council (ICC) updates the national construction code, a list of regulations and requirements for buildings. Utah’s DFCM usually adopts the newest code every five to six years and is currently operating under 2018 construction and plumbing codes, according to Permit Place, a commercial construction licensing assistance organization.
However, the latest plumbing codes descending from the ICC include two amendments allowing for the construction of all-gender, multi-user restrooms, according to The Architect’s Newspaper.
“The first amendment allows for the installation of all-gender, multiuser restrooms in public buildings, and the second amendment requires that single-user restrooms display signage indicating that they are available to all users and not limited to a single gender,” said Stalled! founding member Joel Sanders in the article.
Utah has not yet adopted these amendments but is expected to do so within the next two or three years. As of now, all-gender, multi-stalled restrooms are permitted nationally but not in Utah.
In a statement released by SLCC, media representative Erika Shubin said that the college must abide by Utah’s DFCM code for new buildings since the state owns the institution.
“With that said, we know inclusivity is important,” Shubin said in the statement, “and until the code is updated SLCC will continue to support our students, faculty, staff and visitors by providing single-occupancy restroom options throughout our buildings. Once the code has been updated, the college is ready to consider all-gender, multi-stall restrooms in its construction and budget plans for new facilities.”
To satisfy Utah’s current DFCM code, Moosman proposed to the steering committee a temporary divider which would separate the space into two gendered restrooms with individual entrances until adoption of the new legislation, after which the wall would be removed.
Moosman said the temporary divider is in line with Utah’s 2018 version of the code, but Shubin claimed that the design and construction process of the ATC is “too far along” to add the temporary divider.
“However, our single-occupancy restrooms, which are located throughout our buildings, are gender-neutral,” Shubin added in the statement.
Upcoming all-gender endeavors at SLCC
At SLCC, Student Affairs organized a group to develop a pilot program for an all-gender restroom in a student center of one of the school’s campuses, Shubin said.
“Once that work is finished, the college leadership can review the pilot and determine the next steps,” she added.
The group’s first meeting took place on March 10 and included Chuck Lepper, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, who will work directly with Moosman and other school leadership to pilot the all-gender restroom.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Sprague Library renovation included an all-gender, multi-user restroom. Although the multi-stall restroom was discussed, it was not implemented during construction. The library offers single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms.