In March 2016, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced the campus rec facility would be the next location on campus to include all-gender locker rooms. Construction on the all-gender locker rooms began in March, to be completed in May 2016.
Here, Christopher Dulak, the senior assistant director for marketing and communications at UNL Campus Recreation, gave additional insight on the move.
Why did UNL want the Campus Recreation Center to be the next location to include all-gender restrooms?
The decision was dictated by the Campus Recreation Department, rather than the university level. The renovation is an important step in establishing a permanent family/all-gender/inclusive locker room, to elevate our oldest facility (the Campus Rec Center, completed in early 1990s) to the same standard as our newer facilities.
We had a “visiting team locker room” that was vacated by the university’s athletic department — when not being used by athletics, our department had made it available for a family/all-gender space. An analysis of the vacated space led to a decision to rid it of the “team locker room” feel and renovate it into an inviting, purpose-built space that multiple audiences could use with ease.
Our newest rec facilities — the Outdoor Adventures Center (opened May 2014) and the Rec & Wellness Center (opened July 2015) — were designed and constructed with all-gender/inclusive locker rooms, in addition to female and male-specific locker rooms.
How should other campus rec departments decide if they should too include all-gender locker rooms?
Our approach was a “no-barriers-to-participation and a space that elevates comfort and dignity.” Departments need to look at their mission/purpose on campus and see if they are missing an audience or lacking equal opportunities. We worked with the staff of our campus LGBTAQ center to establish base needs, and then elevated it from there, e.g. fathers who bring their daughters for a swim, students with body-image challenges, members with medical concerns who desire more privacy, elderly visitors who need assistance from others or additional space beyond a standard toilet stall.
Family/all-gender/inclusive spaces should not be dictated by numbers or volume of use. There are unlimited unknown reasons why a visitor may desire a non-gender-specific space, and it’s our goal to make sure everyone feels their personal worth and dignity are elevated.
What else can you tell me about this project and its importance?
We started with an existing shared-space that served the basic needs, (emphasis on basic) about 6 years ago. As the values of society and the needs of our current students have evolved, so have our priorities. We are now in a position both financially and physically to make a dedicated investment. Yes, there are people who may not agree with this investment. However, the campus population is constantly shifting — incoming students, retiring faculty and staff, graduations, new programs, etc. — and we are steering our department to meet the future needs.