All-gender, single-stall restrooms will soon be available in every building on the St. Paul campus. New signage will be installed on all restrooms. Prominently placed maps will help community members and visitors find their way on campus. All part of an effort to provide welcoming facilities and use consistent, respectful terminology and symbols across the university.
Christopher Maas, Director of Facilities, gives credit for the effort to Christa Spielman, formerly the Women and LGBTQ Student Services Coordinator for Metro State. “Really Christa was the one who brought this to our attention. It caused us to step back and evaluate our facilities from a broad perspective,” Maas said.
Spielman recently left the university to become Community Relations Representative for PRIDE Institute, a mental health services provider in Eden Prairie.
“The year 2015 was big construction year for us. We built the Student Center, the Parking Ramp and the Science Education Center. We realized we were identifying restrooms on campus in several different, inconsistent ways,” said Maas.
To evaluate the use of signs and symbols on campus, Maas sought input from across Metro State, including the Women’s and LGBTQ Student Resource Center, Center for Accessibility Resources, Marketing, Student Life and Leadership Development, Student Senate, and the President’s Office.
The university also hired Visual Communications, a graphic and sign design consulting company in St. Paul. “We’ve worked with them in the past. They did the Library sign for us. They’re very familiar with Minnesota State campuses,” said Maas.
The consultants found that single-stall restrooms on campus had been labeled with a “confusing hybrid style pictogram… not well received by the LGBTQ community or the public at-large.”
Feedback from the Metro State community was conclusive too. The half-man/half-woman pictogram is offensive, unacceptable and should be replaced, Maas said. “We are going to go with ‘All-Gender’ restroom and use internationally recognized pictograms on the sign.”
The new signs declare “Anyone may use this restroom, regardless of gender identity or expression.” They depict the image of a toilet, and an updated “forward motion” wheelchair symbol.
The consultant’s report recommended using the moving wheelchair to represent accessibility, instead of the familiar “static ‘handicapped’ pictogram.”
“Head is forward to indicate forward motion of the person through space. Here the person is the ‘driver’ or decision maker about her mobility,” reads the consultants’ report.
Maas estimated that the restrooms, signage and maps will be installed on the St. Paul campus within 6 months. “We’re starting with the Library because it’s one of our biggest public-facing buildings on campus. It’s just a matter of modifying one wall to gain an all-gender restroom,” he said.
“We’re starting with St. Paul because it’s our own facility. When you get into the leased buildings, there are challenges,” said Maas. Midway campus is a leased facility; the Management Education Center (MEC) is operated by Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) and the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Education Center (LECJEC) in Brooklyn Park is maintained by Hennepin Technical College.
Metro State is at the forefront of the Minnesota State system in providing welcoming, inclusive facilities, Maas said.
The work to update campus facilities and signs is far from over. Changes may also come from a work group assessing Metro State’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), led by Chief Diversity Officer Craig Morris and Kristin Jorenby, Director of Accessibility Resources. The Marketing office has kicked off a rebranding study that may affect logos, fonts and signs too.
“It’s a limited scope project for now, and once [these other studies] are done, we can take this to the next step,” said Maas.
“I think it’s so important that students, staff, faculty and external stakeholders can come to Metro State and access the services and facilities they need. To be able to identify where those services are on campus and find them with ease,” said Maas.