EUSA to designate two thirds of bathrooms gender neutral

Correction: The print version of this article misgendered the proposer of the motion. At the request of the proposer, their quotes have been removed from this article. The Student takes gender and identification very seriously and we deeply and sincerely apologise for the error.

Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) has been tasked with establishing and expanding gender neutral toilet facilities throughout its venues, following a motion passed at Student Council last month.

The motion, titled ‘EUSA: Stop Taking the Piss’, called on the students union to convert all current single occupancy toilets and changing facilities to be gender neutral.  It further established a quota calling on two-thirds of existing shared toilet facilities in EUSA venues to be converted into gender neutral spaces.

The changes were demanded to be made immediately and “without any additional modification” to the building. The motion passed into policy on December 3 with 48 votes for, 14 against, and five abstentions.

As detailed by the motion, the conversion of facilities is contingent on the removal of all binary or gendered language on the signage.  Instead of signs indicating “both men and women”, the text stipulates, gender neutral facilities should be designated by contents alone, for example: “Stalls and Urinals”, “Stalls Only”, or “Stalls, Showers and Changing Facilities”.  Referencing gender would alienate and exclude those who are neither, the motion read.

In addition to re-designation of facilities, the motion called for EUSA sabbatical officers to undergo a Trans 101 training event to “educate themselves in appropriate terminology”. Sabbatical officers would then be mandated to lobby the University for expansion of the policy into university buildings, in addition to the Centre for Sport and Exercise (CSE).

Vice President of Societies and Activities, Andy Peel, and representatives from the EUSA Marketing team were unavailable to comment on progress made at time of print. 

But in his Accountability Report at the same council meeting, Peel referenced other initiatives he had been taking with the University Estates Department toward the expansion of gender neutral facilities across campus.

The redevelopment of Pleasance, for instance, has included requirements by EUSA for 23 gender neutral, four disabled and 17 single sex toilets, Peel said in his report. The Student could not verify the claims at press time. 

Additionally, Peel expressed his intention to “embed a formal Estates policy into the work of the University”, and eschew the current building by building approach to toilet designations.

Yet despite broad expressions of support from the sabbatical team, potential regulatory hurdles with the motion’s implementation remain.

Section 3.12 of the 2015 Scottish Building Standards indicates quotas necessary for sanitary facilities in public venues based on gender. The standards were mentioned at Student Council by Vice President Services Urte Macikene, in explanation for why a certain percentage of toilets at EUSA venues were required to be gender-designated.

The regulations, passed by statutory instrument, dictate the terms by which building warrants are issued by the government, which must be renewed every three years. Contravention can include a fine of up to £5,000, as well as the possibility of a warrant denying renewal.

It was unclear the extent to which the regulations might impinge on the demands of the motion, if at all. 
A spokesperson for EUSA was unavailable to comment on the implementation of the motion and the possible regulatory hurdles at time of print.  But a source within EUSA told The Student that the association had sought legal advice back in December on both the Scottish Building Standards and the Licensing (Scotland) Act to determine their ability to proceed.

The next student council meeting is on January 21 in the Teviot Dining Room, where sabbatical officers will present an accountability report on the progress made since December.

Image: John Mason

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