Students successfully petition for gender neutral bathroom in BCC

Administration and students collaborated to make BCC a gender inclusive community and will install an all-gender bathroom this summer

John+Russell%2FVanderbilt

John Russell/Vanderbilt

Allison Mendoza

The BCC will be installing a gender neutral bathroom this coming summer after sophomore Jaden Jules and a group of his classmates petitioned for the bathroom and contacted administration.

After a February town hall discussing homophobia and transphobia in the black community, Jules met with BCC Director Rosevelt Noble and created a petition with his Black LGBTQI+ History class to add a gender neutral bathroom to the center. After garnering 538 signatures, Vanderbilt swiftly approved the construction of the bathroom, slated for this coming summer.

Noble worked with the BCC  and the KC Potter Center to have a town hall in February on transphobia and homophobia in the black community after noticing symptoms of the issue in months prior. Some instances included controversial group chat messages within the BCC community, a CNN segment on homeless black gay youth, as well as a November town hall discussing Kevin Hart’s inflammatory tweets. The absence of a gender neutral bathroom was brought up by a group of students at a February town hall.

“I realized then that we had some issues with homophobia and transphobia in the black community,” said BCC Director Rosevelt Noble.

According to Jules, during the town hall, a group of students expressed discomfort with the fact that although dorms on Commons and other centers on campus have gender neutral bathrooms– the BCC does not.

“They expressed concerns that the BCC and the black community were asking us, as black, queer individuals, to feel comfortable in a space that is not institutionally comfortable, that’s not socially comfortable, and they brought up the point that the BCC doesn’t even have a gender neutral bathroom, which I hadn’t even realized,” Noble said.

After the town hall and further discussing the issue in his class on black LGBTQ+  history, Jules felt inspired to take action on the lack of a gender-neutral bathroom in the center.

“We talked about what were we going to do about it, and I feel like that’s honestly how a lot of these conversations go. We talk about how we’re so mad at the issues and we don’t do anything,” Jules said. “The problem that students fall into is that we join clubs and add to our resumes but we’re not necessarily making anything better. If you actually press, attack and dive into and press for change, that’s when change happens.”

Jules met with Noble to discuss creating a petition, and with his agreement, Jules and his class proceeded to collect 538 signatures over two days on change.org. He also wrote a letter to Dean of Students Mark Bandas on the issue with the petition attached. The day after he sent it,  he got a reply from Bandas the saying he would speak to Noble.

By the following Tuesday, Bandas notified Jules that the construction and funding of the bathroom had been finalized and would occur during the coming summer. Bandas confirmed that the project would be undertaken this summer. He declined to comment on how the university is funding the construction.

Jules was also inspired to learn more about the experience of gender neutral individuals, and reached out to  the KC Potter Center for further insight on the experiences of gender neutral individuals.

“Me, as a cisgender individual, I can walk into a male bathroom and feel comfortable. But others that don’t have that luxury, don’t experience that,” Jules said.

Overall, Noble emphasized that this event serves as an expression of students’ power on campus.

“This university exists in large part to serve the needs of the student body,” Noble said. “While we are a research based institution and we care a whole lot about our research, we also care a whole lot about our student experience. When you have a university that cares a lot about both, the most powerful thing is the students’ voice. I had never thought about the fact that we didn’t have a gender neutral bathroom, so I don’t know if it would’ve been another year until we realized it was an area of concern we needed to address and it took a student vocalizing that for us to realize.”