November 7 marked a new era on campus, with the bathrooms in the Schmon Tower across from the elevators now labelled as gender-neutral. This addition was a collaborative project between the SJC, Brock Pride and the university, serving to promote positive space and encouraging solidarity among students.
Brock has undergone other aesthetic changes this year, including the landscaping in front of the tower where the Sir Isaac Brock statue will reside. In this sense, it only makes sense that another change has been implemented in the heart of the university.
Dr. Jennifer Ajandi, a professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies department, said that it’s a great change, seeing it as a basic human right for all people. “Not everyone fits into the binary of what society categorizes as men or women. Having gender-neutral bathrooms are an important aspect in terms of its practical use but also as a signal that students and faculty of all gender identities are welcome and included in the consciousness of the university,” said Ajandi.
“These spaces are also important because they tend to be larger, which accommodates people with mobility assistance as well as larger bodies. We also need to think about how student parents are reflected on campus and make them family-friendly, such as adding baby changing tables and breast-feeding rooms to increase accessibility for the population.”
There have been mixed views on the new bathrooms, with opinions ranging from neutrality to encouragement, including fourth-year Concurrent Education student Madeline Van Hemert. Being sensitive towards this issue, she believes in the importance of acceptance and fostering positive space when she is in the classroom. “There is actually a school in Mississauga that has already done this and I think it’s great that Brock is doing it as well,” said Van Hemert. “For those that may feel uncomfortable, just use another washroom. Our school encourages diversity and we have so many resources on campus that promotes unity, and this is just adds to that list.”
In contrast to this, second-year Digital Media Arts and Business student Jake Parrotta, said that though he personally doesn’t have an issue with re-labelling the bathrooms, he does foresee a possible problem that some students may have if other bathrooms would undergo the same change. “The bathrooms in the tower were already private since they only allowed one person inside at a time, like a family bathroom, so it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal. There could be some tension if it were a multi-person bathroom, but for now I think it’s a good thing,” said Parrotta. Both Brock Pride and the Student Justice Centre (SJC) work towards advocating for social justice, change and equality on campus and in the community. While Brock Pride focuses on creating a safe atmosphere for students of diverse gender and sexual identities, the SJC operates in supporting such groups at Brock and advocating for equity through workshops, programming, events and campaigns.