Bristol Uni to spend £3.4m putting gender-neutral bathrooms in all buildings
It’s been hailed as “exciting news” by the SU’s Equality, Liberation, and Access Officer
In a victory for Bristol's LGBT+ community, the university has agreed to make an investment of £3.4m to convert bathrooms across campus into gender-neutral spaces.
Announcing the move earlier this week SU Equality, Liberation and Access Officer Sally Patterson celebrated what she called "exciting news".
She wrote: "The changes will mean that both students and staff will have access to toilets where they feel comfortable".
Clarifying the plans, Patterson said that every building will have a "designated" toilet which fits the new brief, and that almost all toilets across the precinct will be reworked.
The upgrade will bring the university into line with other institutions across the country – the Home Office and the BBC both operate unisex facilities.
However, the cost of the move has raised questions over how the university chooses to spend its money at a time of increased scrutiny from students.
Responding to Patterson's announcement, Isaac Haigh, one of the faces of the March for Mental Health that took place earlier this year, questioned whether the work could be completed more cost effectively. He also suggested that money might be better spent on counselling services geared towards understanding the concerns of gender non-conforming students.
Patterson was having none of it, however. She made it clear that access to safe bathroom facilities should be treated as a "basic human right" and that the issue has become an SU priority after several students raised concerns.
A genderqueer aerospace engineering student said: "I think it's long overdue that gender neutral bathrooms are introduced.
"Before this the uni has labelled wheelchair-accessible toilets as gender neutral toilets; which is sort of true, but limits the number of gender neutral bathrooms in general since standalone accessible toilets are few, with some accessible stalls placed behind gendered bathroom doors."
With the university planning to invest £1m annually into mental health services, it seems like there may not be a significant disparity between the amount spent on wellbeing services and the new gender-neutral bathrooms over the next four years.
All eyes will be on Big Hugh and his famously deep pockets as other student concerns are raised during the forthcoming year.