Letter: All-Gender bathrooms desperately needed

letter to the editor

Duke’s Executive Vice President Daniel Ennis must invest in accessible, well-marked all-gender bathrooms (AGBs) across campus, including in the Biology department. At present, there are no accessible AGBs for Biology faculty, staff, students and visitors. The closest option is located in the basement of the French Family Science Center, far from any trafficked areas. The location of this bathroom renders it both inoperative (i.e., no one knows how to find it) and poses a safety risk. The second closest AGB is located several buildings away in the Levine Science Research Center. For several nonbinary and transgender department members, the lack of usable all-gender bathrooms constitutes an urgent need.

Even after the passing and subsequent repeal of HB2 in North Carolina in the face of public opposition, bathrooms remain a contested site for the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people. Available and accessible AGBs are critical for the safety and wellbeing of those who are afraid of being targeted in multi-stall restrooms because of North Carolina’s history of hostile laws around bathroom use. Some may not feel comfortable in multi-stall restrooms for other reasons too, including, for example, those that may need access to a family restroom, those using wheelchairs or those who require additional privacy. Finally, for prospective students and faculty visiting campus, the lack of available AGBs sends a powerful message of exclusion. University campuses across the country, including Yale and the UC system, have had accessible AGBs for years, yet at Duke, access to AGBs remains a major challenge. Correcting this disregard would be a meaningful investment for not only current members of the Duke community, but also future students, faculty, staff and visitors. 

We call on Executive Vice President Daniel Ennis to ensure a safe working environment for trans and nonbinary people by funding the construction of all-gender bathrooms in French Family Science Center and in all other buildings on Duke’s campus without accessible options. Send him an email about the urgency of this issue.

Anita Simha and Aeran Coughlin, Duke Biology

On behalf of Duke Biology’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism (IDEA) Committee


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