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USG reviews position paper on gender-neutral bathrooms, University cites constraints of New Jersey Code

<h5>A gender neutral bathroom in Yeh College, part of the new architecture to make Princeton more inclusive.</h5>
<h6>Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
A gender neutral bathroom in Yeh College, part of the new architecture to make Princeton more inclusive.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

Addressing the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate, as president for the first time, new USG President Stephen Daniels ’24 said that there is a “perception of [USG] being out of touch” within the student body. Daniels laid out some goals, one being that “USG is more present on campus.”

“We will end up keeping some stuff, but we need to change a lot,” Daniels continued. He hoped that by the end of his term, the way students talk about USG will be “meaningfully different.”

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Over the course of the first meeting, the Senate reviewed constitutional procedures, confirmed new Senate appointments, presented the draft budget, and discussed a position paper on gender-neutral bathrooms following the referendum in the winter elections.

Daniels ’24 and Vice President Madison Linton ’24 were elected in December to lead the USG Senate for a term starting in January 2023.

Parliamentarian Sebastian Mehrzad ’26 gave a brief presentation on constitutional procedures. Then, voting members unanimously confirmed new Senate appointments: Genevieve Shutt ’26 and Samiksha Gaherwar ’26 as U-Councilors, Petra Knupp ’26 as Historian, Hannah Jo ’26 as Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Isabella Sibaja ’26 as Campus and Community Affairs Chair, Hareton Song ’26 as Alumni Affairs Chair, Alex Sorgini ’26 as Chief Elections Manager, and John Raulston Graham ’24 as Architect. 

The position of Parliamentarian was also listed on an application sent out to the student body. Mehrzad has served in the role since September 2022.

Sorgini takes over as Chief Elections Manager from Brian Li ’24, who has served in the position since early 2021. Over the course of his two years in office, Li managed a number of high-profile elections, including the Caterpillar Referendum in April 2022.

The appointments included two candidates for office in the winter elections. Shutt mounted an unsuccessful bid for Class of 2026 Senator, while Song campaigned for Academics Chair.

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Song is a contributing copy editor and newsletter writer for The Daily Princetonian.

The Architect position is new this term and is concerned with “advis[ing] Senate advocacy around upcoming construction projects and assist[ing] with planned USG Office renovations,” according to a USG email sent to all undergraduate students. 

Graham is a columnist for the ‘Prince.’

Walker Penfield ’25, who was elected as Treasurer in the recent election, presented the draft budget that will be finalized and voted on at the next meeting. Penfield reported that there is a $80,000 budget surplus that USG “could do a lot of impactful things with.” 

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Penfield also highlighted changes from the previous budget such as an increase in projects board funding from $45,000 to $55,000. The USG Projects Board funds events from student clubs open to the whole student body.

“We’re excited to see that increase because that is a much more direct way that we can support student activities,” Penfield said. “I really want to keep that budget as tight as we would any other semester but then have extra reserves to spend on new and exciting projects,” he added.

The meeting moved on to the gender-neutral bathroom referendum, which passed in the winter elections with 58 percent of the vote. Former U-Councilor and current Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair Uma Fox ’26 then presented a review of the position paper she co-authored with previous DEI Chair and current USG senator Braiden Aaronson ’25 and DEI Committee Member Kai Hostetter-Habib ’26. The position paper recommends next steps to actualize results from the recent referendum calling for “a commission to investigate and look at how we can move the University's undergraduate residential spaces towards being majority gender-neutral.”

The USG senate will soon vote on the paper. If it passes, the paper will be sent to offices such as the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (IED), the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI), Princeton Facilities, and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.

In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss said that the University’s approach to constructing gender-neutral bathrooms will be informed by state guidelines. Hotchkiss suggested that multi-user gender-neutral bathrooms may violate New Jersey Code in certain situations.

“The University’s inclusive restroom strategies must be built-out within the parameters of New Jersey’s requirements for plumbing infrastructure, the Plumbing Code. New Jersey’s Plumbing Code does not fully support inclusive restroom strategies,” he wrote.  

“The University has sought and received dozens of variances from the state to allow for the development of single user inclusive restrooms and continues to be an active advocate for flexibility within the Plumbing Code to allow for the development of shared inclusive facilities,” he said. “Until the requirements change, new University development projects are planning for inclusive architectural layouts that can be permitted as the code evolves.”

According to Hotchkiss, the results of these efforts are visible in the new colleges, where the gender-neutral bathrooms “provide an architectural ‘model’ of potential layouts in campus buildings.”

“This strategy was applied at New College West and Yeh, where the pair of group restrooms supporting the dining rooms have individual and secure toilet rooms with shared lavatories,” he added. “However, these are currently labeled ‘men’ and ‘women’ to comply with the current code. New College West and Yeh College also have a limited number of single user inclusive restrooms supporting public spaces elsewhere in the complex.” 

The ‘Prince’ observed at least one multi-stall bathroom adjacent to the New College West/Yeh dining hall that has a sign indicating that it is “gender-neutral.”

The position paper for the referendum states that facilities in the new colleges “adhere to the design regulations for gender-neutral restrooms established in the International Plumbing Code, featuring doors that meet the floor and enhanced stall privacy.”

While the campaign used the gender-neutral bathrooms in New College West and Yeh as a model, an inability to convert existing multi-user bathrooms to gender-neutral facilities may pose obstacles to the aims of the referendum.

According to Fox, the crucial point of the paper is restating the importance of gender-neutral bathrooms “both from mental and physical health perspective — especially for transgender and gender nonconforming students.” 

USG Senate Meetings are held at 4 p.m. on Sundays at Robertson 001 and are open for all students to attend. 

Nandini Krishnan is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’ 

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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