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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Gender-neutral bathroom topic turns heated at board meeting


A planned discussion about multistall gender-neutral bathrooms shifted into a confrontation full of interruption and disagreement between two generations of government.

The issue took over half of the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday.

“We’re on the cusp of a cultural change,” Trustee Peter Haslund said.

Students and faculty informally stood up out of their seats, and walked to the stand with purpose.

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President Trustee Marsha Croninger told the Associated Student Government, LGBT+ and Feminist club members present that the item was not a debate. She then proceeded to add fuel to the fire by asking all of the students to argue in support of the opposition against multistall gender-neutral bathrooms.

“Our vision is that students will learn to argue both sides,” Croninger said.

LGBT+ Club President Ainsley Meyer claimed she already knew where Croninger stood on the issue. Meyer believed it was unfair for her to be cross-examined and asked to defend a side that she felt doesn’t care about her community.

“It’s not my job to present the other side. If [the opposition] cared enough, they could’ve been there and done that for themselves. It’s my job to defend the side of inclusivity,” she said. “Having multistalled gender-neutral restrooms shows the campus that it doesn’t matter what your gender expression is, it matters that you’re here to learn.”

Last Thursday, the student government and LGBT+ Club hosted a rally and gathered 500 signatures on a petition in support of presenting a policy to the board.

The student government emailed its bathroom policy to the board before the meeting.

Student Trustee Emily Gribble choked up, quivering through her words of equality, while defending the policy during her speech to the board.

“The opposition in this case is simply the continuation of segregation,” Gribble said. “The suicide attempts—the rates of self harm in this community is staggering and it’s sickening. If we can do anything to lower that number as public servants, it is our job.”

Academic Senate President Priscilla Butler stepped in to remind students that no matter how unjust or emotional an issue seems, there is a shared-governance process.  Each step in the process needs to be followed through in order to continue any further.

“I think it has gotten to us way too prematurely,” Trustee Craig Nielson said.

Currently there are 20 single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Students complain that most of the bathrooms are hidden and aren’t as close as female and male-only bathrooms.

Superintendent-President Dr. Anthony Beebe told the students that City College is working on developing a map app for them to find these bathrooms easier.

The students—including a gender-fluid and agender student— shuffled in their seats in disbelief that they would have to use a map to find a gender-neutral bathroom.

The board recently passed a new vision statement in which the students said they feel they aren’t following through with.

“Standing by is an injustice,” said David Panbehchi, student commissioner of events.  

Beebe, as well as many trustees, believed that the City College’s community and government still need to be educated more on the topic before the board can entertain a policy.

Croninger added that the possible expenses of bathroom changes would need to be determined before action can take place.

“I don’t get the sense that anybody is ready for that at this point,” Beebe said.

Ready for change, Panbehchi disagreed. The board tried to dismiss his commenting, but he insisted on having his passion for the issue heard.

As of now, there is no scheduled item regarding this issue for the board’s next meeting April 13.

“That’s three weeks for the board to get educated,” Panbehchi said.

Beebe will consult with the college’s Board Policies and Administrative Procedures Committee before any further action is taken. 

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