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Gender-neutral bathroom destroyed in Drake Library

by Tori Martinez - LIFESTYLES EDITOR
Tue, Mar 7th 2017 05:00 pm
Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Southwell
VANDALIZED - The gender-neutral bathroom in Drake was destroyed between Friday, Feb. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 26.
Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Southwell VANDALIZED - The gender-neutral bathroom in Drake was destroyed between Friday, Feb. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 26.

The only toilet in the family bathroom on the first floor of Drake Memorial Library was found shattered, hanging off the wall Saturday, Feb. 25. A student employee discovered the toilet around 12 p.m. in the bathroom tucked away in the corner between the circulation desk and Aerie Cafe. The bathroom is labeled as "family bathroom," open for use to all people. Although it is not labeled as a "gender-neutral" or "unisex" bathroom, it serves as one. There are no suspects as of now and University Police Chief Edward Giblin said there is no criminal investigation into the matter. The toilet has since been replaced.

Pam O'Sullivan, Head of Integrated Library Services, said the toilet must have been shattered by someone who stayed in the library after it closed Friday night, because someone would have heard it happen if they were working. The library closes at 8 p.m. on Fridays and doesn't open until 10 a.m. on Saturdays. According to the UP police report, it had to have happened between midnight and 9:45 a.m. 

While no one can say definitively whether or not the bathroom was vandalized because it's a gender-neutral bathroom, several library staff and Brockport students believe it's a possibility. The bathroom was labeled as a women's bathroom until this academic year when it was remodeled and labeled as a family bathroom. The incident happened just two days after the Trump administration lifted protections that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their chosen gender identity. 

Giblin said there's no reason to believe the broken toilet is related to the national attention on transgender rights: it is labeled as a family bathroom and there was no transphobic graffiti left behind. 

He said acts of vandalism happen all the time, whether it's a broken window in an academic building or a water fountain knocked off the wall in a dorm building. The police report labels it as "criminal mischief." 

O'Sullivan said in the nine years she has worked at the library, she has never seen someone stay overnight to cause mischief or damage.

"There was no graffiti, no comments - there were no indicators other than vandalism," Giblin said.

O'Sullivan also said that while there's no way to know the motive behind the shattered toilet, there's a possibility it was a transphobic act.

"I think it's possible, even though we've labeled the bathroom as 'family bathroom' rather than 'gender neutral'," O'Sullivan said. "I think the idea is pretty clear to everybody that we want to make sure there's some place in the library where everybody can feel comfortable ... I would like to hope that wasn't the case, that it was just your basic malicious mischief; however, that it happened to that bathroom at the time it did, you'd have to wonder."

SUNY New Paltz saw a more obvious transphobic act on the same day Trump announced the lift on federal protections, Wednesday, Feb. 22. 

According to The New Paltz Oracle, signs saying "preferred ladies' restroom" and "preferred men's restroom" were affixed on the doors of two gender neutral bathrooms in the faculty office building. 

O'Sullivan said the library is taking precautions to ensure the safety of students and the building. 

While student employees always do routine checks to make sure no one is in the library after hours, it could be easy to miss someone since the library is so large. To ensure this doesn't happen again, the frequency of checks will increase, including all levels of every stairwell and all the bathrooms. A male and female student will now check every bathroom together before closing so that the appropriate gender is checking each bathroom. 

The two will specifically go together so someone else with them in case there is a problem. 

"I hope we don't see anything like this again and that overall, we'll see a higher level of acceptance of all kinds of people on campus," O'Sullivan said. "I know we're working on it, but I want to see the day where we've gotten to where we need to be. I want to make sure students know the library really is a safe place to be."

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