UPDATE: Charles Klink, VCU interim vice provost for student affairs, confirmed the university is anticipating lavender (LGBTQ-friendly) housing next academic year.
Starting today, VCU is officially implementing gender-neutral and accessible restroom facilities on its Monroe Park Campus.
The implementations made today will only be in three buildings: the Academic Learning Commons, University Student Commons and the James Branch Cabell Library. The university, however, will continue to add similar bathrooms throughout the next eight weeks.
VCU’s Special Assistant for LGBTQ Initiatives, Paris Prince, said this action will move VCU forward in the discussion of LGBTQ issues.
“The point here is to move beyond the binary of either you’re this or you’re that,” he said. “VCU has leapfrogged forward in this discussion. Many institutions or organizations have not gotten to this point yet. VCU with this statement wanted to say, ‘This restroom is for everyone.’”
The university-wide effort was made by VCU’s Division for Inclusive Excellence in conjunction with the Office of Equity and Access. The restrooms, along with being gender-neutral and accessible, will be single-occupancy; the signage in front of the restrooms will be changed accordingly.
Vice President for Inclusive Excellence Wanda Mitchell said she believes that this action and others will help improve VCU’s score on The Campus Pride Index. Campus Pride is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create safer and LGBTQ-friendly college and university campuses.
This year, VCU improved its score on the Campus Pride index, which rates universities’ overall friendliness and inclusion toward LGBTQ students. In 2012, VCU was given three out of five stars on the index; this year, the score was improved to three and a half stars.
“We want to work with other offices to make sure the climate, policies, and practices are aligned to make this a welcoming, supportive and nurturing environment for the success of LGBTQ students,” Mitchell said. “After the campus pride survey was conducted in 2012, they articulated what the needs were — one of those was gender-neutral restrooms.”
Prince was hired this year by the university to implement numerous measures to make VCU more inclusive toward LGBTQ students. He said the gender-neutral bathrooms are only the beginning.
“This is the first major initiative after my arrival,” he said. “There are a lot of efforts occurring across the campus, this is only one component.”