Collis Center's gender-inclusive bathroom sign stolen

by Daniela Armas | 10/7/16 12:30am

by Kate Herrington / The Dartmouth

The repeated theft and tearing-down of the Collis Center’s signs designating single-stall bathrooms as gender-inclusive has continued into the fall term, according to Sean Cann ’17 and Thuy Le ’17 and Kelsey Phares ’17, co-chairs of the Collis Governing Board. They brought the issue to public attention in a campus-wide email sent out on Sept. 30.

The CGB chairs first became aware of the problem when Collis maintenance staff noticed the disappearance and damage of numerous signs as they opened the building in the morning. The incidents, which Cann said began last spring, were originally sporadic. As time passed, however, he said it became evident that students have been targeting transgender and gender-nonconforming students in particular.

While the exact number of signs stolen is unknown, the number was high enough to prompt Collis staff to order a shipment of replacement signs and add daily inspections of gender-inclusive restrooms to their list of responsibilities.

So far, no perpetrators have been identified. Much of the difficulty in finding an exact perpetrator lies in the fact that people visit Collis so often. Cann and Le explained that the bathrooms commonly targeted are on the first and second floors of the building, the Center’s most populous areas.

Most of the incidents have occurred at night, during Late Night Collis dining hours and Collis After Dark programming hours.

Collis aims to combat the vandalism by reinforcing its role as a safe-haven for students, Cann said.

“It certainly functions as an alternative social space, and people who don’t feel comfortable elsewhere should absolutely feel like they have a place at Collis,” Cann said.

These occurrences are also a reflection of an ongoing national controversy regarding gender inclusive restrooms.

Earlier this year, contention over gender-inclusive restrooms arose in North Carolina after the state passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. In effect, the bill prevents people from using restrooms that do not correspond to their gender at birth. The bill spawned numerous protests and national debate, prompting states like California to institute policies securing transgender rights. In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill designating all single-stall bathrooms in California as gender-inclusive.

Numerous colleges have taken steps to support gender-nonconforming students as well. Yale University introduced gender-inclusive restrooms to its campus in the spring. In March, Cooper Union in New York City announced that it would convert all of their restrooms into gender-inclusive bathrooms.

Cann reiterated that the goal of Collis is to comfort the affected students and offer support.

The CGB plans to increase social and cultural awareness by supporting programming catered to traditionally marginalized groups. Students can report any incidents they witness to the Bias Incident Response Team, an organization aimed at combating violence targeting students based on race, gender, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. Reports submitted online are directed to the Judicial Affairs Office, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, and Safety and Security.

The Office of Pluralism and Leadership was unavailable for comment by press time.