In a Student Government Association Senate meeting held in late May, newly elected SGA President Christopher Clemente announced that new restrooms nonrestrictive to one’s gender will soon be installed in the Student Union.
The restrooms are slated to begin construction within the next year and will be located directly across the hallway from the restrooms currently located in front of the Pegasus Ballroom. Rick Falco, director of the Student Union, emphasized that they will be termed “all-gender” restrooms as opposed to gender-neutral restrooms.
“The correct term is all-gender, and that’s to be inclusive of everyone,” Falco said. “Gender-neutral, which is the alternative, is still an acceptable term, but it can also refer to people who are neutral in gender. So the view in changing it to ‘all-gender’ is that they aren’t viewed as restrooms that are just for people who are neutral in gender.”
This has been an ongoing effort between Falco and Clemente. After several delays and issues with construction, they’ve finally received the official go-ahead. They incorporated the all-gender restrooms construction project as part of the larger Aramark food court construction project.
Currently, there are 17 gender-neutral restrooms on campus, but despite the heavy foot traffic the Student Union receives every day, there are none built there. When Clemente took office as the SGA president, he pushed for the all-gender restrooms to be completed much sooner.
“This has been on our radar for a long time,” Falco said. “We’ve been talking about it for, at least, maybe five or six years. So three years ago, we were actually able to secure the funding for it and started moving forward with the construction project.”
The funding they secured was originally going to be used to build bike shelters behind the Student Union. However, Clemente considered this construction project more important. So the bike shelter construction project has been canceled for the time being, and the funds, which total roughly $20,000, have been allocated to the all-gender restrooms project.
“I’d much rather have these bathrooms for the students than some shade for their bikes,” Clemente said.
The director of UCF’s Social Justice and Advocacy office, Edwanna Andrews, believes the project will be very appreciated among those in the LGBTQ community.
“The Student Union is known as the heart of campus,” Andrews said. “It’s a place where a lot of activity happens, a place where a lot of students come to eat and sometimes sleep, and to be able to use the restroom without having to leave the building without having to leave an event, without having to pack up your stuff from studying to go to Smoothie King or the library to use the restroom is absolutely amazing.”
Andrews hopes the addition of the restrooms to the Student Union will start an intellectual dialogue on the issue and increase understanding of how and why such restrooms benefit a large campus, such as UCF, and society in general.
“I think it will benefit the entire campus community because it will engage the entire campus community in conversation,” Andrews said. “Conversation about ‘Well, why is there, you know, an all-gender bathroom in the Student Union? Why is there a need for that ...’ hopefully, it will start up a very needed conversation.”
Gabby Baquero is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Gabby_Baquero or email her at MariaB@centralfloridafuture.com