Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism is waiting for confirmation that their proposal for a more gender-inclusive BU was moved to the University Council’s Committee on Student Life and Policies.
The proposal lays out several appeals, including expanding gender-neutral housing, establishing all-gender restrooms in all buildings on campus and bringing together a permanent standing committee to give the LGBT community a platform.
“It’s troubling because we had to back up our appeals in academic work,” said Brian Stanley, CGSA’s internal liaison. “We had to sort of legitimize our complaints and our lived experiences in scholastic work.”
Before getting to this stage, Stanley said he and other members of the CGSA had two meetings with Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Crystal Williams.
“I was eager to understand something more about the LGBTQI+ student experience,” Williams wrote in an email. “So, while the issues undergirding the proposal are cause for apprehension, I was delighted to see the seriousness with which the students had engaged the issues, the amount of research and outreach they’d done, and the thoroughness with which they composed the document.”
Williams said any thoughtful and collective engagement that members of the BU community make in order to make the university more inclusive is a “big contribution.” She added that while she anticipated there was a great deal of work ahead, she was very hopeful that the proposal — or some version of it — would be instated.
In addition to meeting with Williams, the CGSA had an hour-long phone call with Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore last Friday, Stanley said. During the phone call with Elmore, the CGSA was given a tentative timeline of roughly a year and a half for the proposal’s appeals to come to fruition.
Stanley said certain aspects of the timeline were “troubling,” specifically with regard to whether or not any immediate actions would be taken in the meantime.
“There are certain things, to us, which seem like easy fixes,” Stanley said.
Among those easy fixes, Stanley said, is mapping the gender-neutral or single-stalled bathrooms currently available on campus.
Stanley mentioned a Daily Free Press article about gender-neutral bathrooms from last year in which Elmore said, “In the GSU, we are going to try to find a way to make [gender-neutral bathrooms] work, immediately,” but Stanley said he has seen little to no progress made more than a year later.
Stanley said it was necessary that some sort of immediate action is taken. So long as the appeals outlined in the proposal are not met, he said, students, faculty, staff and visitors of the university may suffer.
“This proposal is rooted in violence that people are experiencing and real health concerns,” Stanley said. “My concern is we’re going to spend a year and a half on a policy and talking about a policy and what a policy looks like, and we’re not actually going to be helping people in the meantime.”
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Stanley said he does not want to judge the council members without first hearing what they have to say. He said he is “exceptionally hopeful” that the proposal would come forward and that the CGSA is ready to coordinate a means to make sure it does.
Several BU students said they support the proposal and the appeals listed within it.
Lynn Ward, a freshman in the College of Communication, said BU is likely more conscious about gender inclusivity than most schools, but said she hopes the University Council will be open-minded and consider the effects the proposal would have on students.
Ward said she thinks the appeals are reasonable, adding that she has friends who are struggling to reserve gender-neutral housing. She said that in order for the appeals to be executed effectively, though, they need to be well planned.
“I don’t think that they should rush it because I think that’s just going to cause more problems in the long run,” Ward said. “At the same time, I think it needs to be done sooner rather than later, especially with the class of 2022 coming in.”
Alekha Kolli, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she cannot remember ever seeing a gender-neutral bathroom on campus and that they would be a nice touch to the university.
She added that she hopes the university will listen to the proposal and begin working on the appeals as soon as possible.
“I feel like BU is a very accepting community,” Kolli said. “And I hope that our administrators will also feel the same way about everything.”
Kaitlin Flores, a CAS junior, said she thinks there is room for more gender inclusivity at BU. She said that while the appeals proposed do not pertain to her personally, she wants the proposal to be successful and for changes to start immediately.
“I think everybody should be able to come to campus and feel comfortable and feel like they have spaces that include them,” Flores said. “I would definitely hope that [the CGSA] would be successful.”