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Students advocating for accessible gender-neutral restrooms at UVA School of Law

UVA School of Law
UVA School of Law(WVIR | W)
Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 3:10 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - There are currently eight gender-neutral restrooms inside the University of Virginia School of Law building, but some students say they’re not easily accessible in between classes and need to be moved.

“On one hand, it’s a dignity problem. It’s an issue of them sending the wrong message to trans-students that we don’t belong and that we should hide,” UVA School of Law student Chloe Fife said.

Students from the Lambda Law Alliance at UVA say they’ve been talking with the administration from the law school since last year about providing accessible gender-neutral restrooms.

“At first we were told that because of the pandemic and bureaucracy and building codes, it would be a while before they can prioritize gender-neutral restrooms and they didn’t wrap us into anymore communications even though we asked them to,” Fife said.

Then last week, Fife and others received word from the school that a new single-stall restroom was being built.

“We received an email saying that they would be adding gender-neutral bathrooms without notice to the third floor of the law school and not even in the professor area, but just like faculty area of the law school,” Fife said. “We were asking for a bathroom in the main hallway of the law school where all the classrooms are.”

But according to second-year law student, Rachel Slepoi, the gender-neutral restroom under construction is exclusive.

“I have to accept that it is well intentioned because I’m sure that it is well intentioned, but what it comes off as it just illustrates that the law school was not honest about working with us on this,” Slepoi said. “It’s not an area of the building that students and visitors use.”

Spencer Haydary is the president of the Lambda Law Alliance at UVA.

“I think the frustration that we’ve all felt has been from not being included on these discussions for one or on these decisions,” Haydary said.

Haydary says administration has been receptive to some of their needs.

“One good thing that’s come out of this is that we’ll be working with the dean’s office on doing a bathroom tour,” Haydary said. “We have no animosity towards the administration. We really just want to get the ball rolling and making this as accessible as possible.”

NBC29 reached out to the UVA School of Law and in a statement chief communications officer, Mary Wood said, “We have been actively working on our students’ request to add gender-neutral or single-stall restrooms closer to where classrooms are concentrated, and will continue to do so. The school currently has eight single-stall restrooms located across the first, second and third floors of the building. We take the concerns of our students seriously and care deeply about them. We are committed to fostering a community where everyone feels included, respected and valued.”

Fife, Slepoi, and Haydary all say they want to be involved in future conversations before any further actions on gender-neutral restrooms are taken. These students say the bathrooms will make a positive impact for future students.

“What are we going to do for the next person, for the people who are non-binary who are going to be attending the school and are going to be visiting the school, speaking at the school or just stopping by,” Slepoi said.

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