Squires Student Center completes inclusive restroom renovations
Continuing the university’s commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive campus, Squires Student Center's recently completed renovations make the building's restrooms more accessible to all users.
“The restroom improvement project at Squires Student Center modernized six restrooms to better meet the needs of today’s campus users. Beyond a new and improved look, the renovations also reflect Virginia Tech’s commitment to inclusion and diversity,” said Mason Montgomery, assistant director for planning and project management.
First-floor facilities saw the most change as two gendered restrooms were combined into a single all-gender configuration.
“Privacy for all patrons is the primary goal,” said Montgomery. “Features include a clean, well-lit public handwashing area; private toilet compartments; and multiple entrances. In addition, two larger toilet compartments in the space accommodate caregivers and individuals needing assistance.
“Feedback provided to Student Engagement and Campus Life, as well as trends in the industry, show that people prefer private toilet stalls in public restrooms. New private toilet compartments accommodate this feedback.”
The upgrades support needs identified in the Renn Report of 2019, commissioned by Student Affairs to assess equitable learning environments on campus. In response to the report, the university created the LGBTQ+ Working Group, composed of administration, faculty, staff, undergraduate students, and graduate students.
To further improve access to all-gender restrooms, members of the LGBTQ+ Working Group joined forces with members of the Campus Accessibility Working Group to form a taskforce with the goal of increasing the number of single-user all-gender restrooms on campus in existing buildings within the Blacksburg campus. This compliments the university’s efforts beginning in 2015 for all capital projects to incorporate single-user all-gender restrooms.
Locations upgraded since the report include Litton-Reaves, McBryde, Burruss, and Goodwin halls. The taskforce, led by Lam Vuong with the Office of University Planning, recently engaged 5 Design Architecture to complete an assessment to strategically install single-user all-gender restrooms in buildings on the Blacksburg campus. Approximately 30 high priority buildings are tagged for renovation or upgrade in coming years.
“The Squires renovation is a necessary addition to this work," said Ashleigh "Bing" Bingham, director of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and taskforce member. "The goal is to have at least one all-gender restroom, ADA accessible, in each building on our beautiful campus."
“All-gender restrooms like the ones we have on campus offer students the ability to plan out their days with the guarantee that they will be able to access one of the most basic resources in our world: a restroom,” said Bing.
“Privileged individuals can access resources, express thoughts and ideas, and find community with little to no pushback," Bing continued. "For trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary folks, this is not always the case. The trans-plus community is often burdened with navigating structures and resources that are not created with them in mind.”
Dyess Harp, a 2022 graduate who worked at the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, said, “Single-gender restrooms are important for helping those who are gender nonconforming to have an affirming environment. If Virginia Tech is leading by example, that helps not just us, but everyone in the surrounding community.”
“All-gender restrooms are a small example of how inclusive efforts benefit many,” said Bing. “Families with small children, nursing mothers, and those not comfortable sharing restrooms with others who may or may not conform to gender norms are also welcomed and encouraged to use these facilities. Most of the all-gender restrooms on our campus are also ADA accessible.”
“We’re so excited for the renovations and particularly the first-floor restroom — that will be simply that — a restroom. No need for gendered terms,” said Heather Wagoner, director of Student Engagement and Campus Life (SECL).
“In SECL, we strive to build affirming environments where each person feels seen, heard, and valued. The ability to use a restroom that best aligns with one’s identity is central to building affirming environments. We want to honor the human dignity each person deserves, and projects like this work toward that goal.”