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Design, plumbing issues delay gender-neutral restrooms


Last spring, UNK announced an initiative to change the restrooms in the Nebraskan Student Union. Plans were made to convert the bathrooms by the Loper Spirit Shop into gender-inclusive restrooms. 

Construction on the restrooms was never finished. 

Maha Younes, chief diversity officer, speculated on why the project isn’t completed yet. 

“Progress is slow because any time you’re dealing with a bureaucratic setting, there is a lot of processes and approval involved,” Younes said. “To me, and to people on campus, it may seem like it takes too long, and I think it does too, honestly.”

Students pointed out the differences brought about by the lack of inclusion efforts. 

“I think it definitely excludes people who need a safe space to do their business,” said Erin Tichota, a Prism member. “People just need a place where they feel comfortable, and with this happening, it’s not possible.” 

While construction started on the restrooms, UNK focused on altering the restrooms located by Subway in the NSU. They changed the gendered signage to all-inclusive ones and added locks to the main doors. The project faced backlash, so they switched back to gendered signs and removed the locks. 

The Subway restrooms are still open and labeled by genders. The Loper Spirit Shop restrooms originally meant for construction are closed off with no finish date currently. 

Construction design documents took months to be approved. The documents are waiting to be sent out for bids. 

There were also complications with the design. The restrooms were supposed to be torn out instead of renovated, and  there were plumbing issues that now interfere with construction. UNK also had to ensure the restrooms’ design would meet ADA regulations. Lastly, the project faced issues with material and contractor availability.  

The project still lacks an official completion date, but UNK hopes to have the restrooms finished in 2023.

Luis Olivas, interim director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, discussed the wider meaning of having the restrooms available to students. 

“We’re not just talking about bathrooms,” Olivas said. “We’re talking about the safety of individuals and, as a university, being affirming of students when they come to campus.” 

There is one single-use bathroom located in the NSU. It is located on the second floor next to the Sandhills room. 

Others exist in dormitories.

In addition to the restrooms, there are plans to add more lactation rooms on campus. They are also looking for space to use as a family restroom. 

Olivas emphasized UNK’s dedication in making campus inclusive for students. 

“We make a commitment with our community and with their families, that we’re going to take care of them,” Olivas said. “And so, we should. It’s as simple as that.”

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