Student Life

Slice of Life: Peeing in peace

It shouldn’t be so hard to make washrooms gender-neutral on campus

Ah, gender-neutral washrooms: so controversial (sigh), yet so simple. News flash! Everyone has a gender-neutral washroom in their home, and everyone deserves access to a facility that suits their needs. But the call for more gender-neutral washrooms goes far beyond that. It’s about advocating for the right to feel safe in a washroom—a right cisgender people often don’t think about.

Many ideological and physical constructs of society, right down to the way washrooms are designed, exclude many LGBTQ+ members. Non-binary people having to choose between ticking off ‘male’ or ‘female’ on certain forms; trans people having to choose which washroom to use—or choose to not use the washroom altogether—are all examples of these exclusionary structures.

D.T, a trans advocate and public educator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, said it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number and location of accessible gender-neutral washrooms across the Concordia campuses. “I also have a problem with ‘single-stalled’ washrooms in general,” said D.T. “Why do we have to exclude ourselves, and further isolate ourselves?”

Ella Webber, a trans student at Concordia, said they found a list of gender-neutral washrooms on the Centre for Gender Advocacy website. It also has information about other resources available to trans and non-binary students, both at Concordia and around Montreal. “Concordia never mentioned that in [the] orientation which I went to,” said Webber. D.T. explained that the list on the centre’s website hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t account for construction on campus that may bar accessibility. “I think at orientation we should be notified about Concordia’s queer facilities like [the centre] and their resources,” said Webber. “When I do find [gender-neutral washrooms] it’s super helpful, and so much more comfortable for me as a trans person.”

Personally, I know there are single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms on the Loyola campus on the second floor of the CC building, in the Hive Café, and in the basement of the CJ building. D.T. informed me that, in the H building on the downtown campus, Reggies bar, the other Hive Café, plus the 5th, 7th and 10th floors, all have gender-neutral washrooms as well (although, due to construction on the 7th floor, the washroom is currently inaccessible—same goes for the VA building).

D.T. and the centre described the H building as extremely problematic in terms of accessibility, one of the reasons being that many of the single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms in the building are shared with wheelchair users. This means they are only accessible with an access code or key provided by the security desk on the first floor (not where the washrooms are). Trans and non binary students not only have to locate the gender-neutral washrooms that are actually open on all of three floors in the Hall building (total number of floors is 12), and plan to get the necessary key or access code, but, after all that, once at the security desk, they may be asked to justify their needs to the security officer. “They run the risk of being outed and asked intensive questions,” she said. “It’s super shitty.”

D.T. met with Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, a few months ago to communicate the centre’s goals—both short and long-term—for the gender-neutral washrooms project. Short term, they would like to see three types of washrooms: an all-gender washroom available to everyone, trans or not, regardless of their gender identity and expression; a men’s washroom for men, male-identifying or transmasculine persons; and a women’s washroom for women, female-identifying or transfeminine persons, explained D. T.

Long term, the centre would like all washrooms to be gender-neutral, thus “respecting everyone’s right to choose the washroom that is appropriate for them.” While Woodall was very supportive of the centre’s project and their demands, he said these changes would take time. “The centre is not satisfied with this response,” said D.T. She also explained how something as simple as changing signage to actually indicate whether a washroom is gender-neutral helps increase accessibility and awareness. “We don’t want only promises,” she said. “We would like the university to put a concrete plan in place to get us to our goal.”

I’m a big fan of the ‘my rights end where your rights begin’ logic, so let’s talk privilege for a second. Do you navigate your days thinking about where the next available and safe washroom is? Do you mediate your liquid intake so you don’t have to go as frequently? If you answered ‘no’ to the above, I’d suggest rethinking the privilege—yes privilege—you have of simply using a washroom. Everyone should be able to pee in peace.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Updated on Jan. 9. 2024

In the original version of the article, one of the two sources was named fully. One of the sources has since requested to be left anonymous.


ASFA tackles the culture of frosh

Arts & Sciences Federation Association (ASFA) will be kicking off Frosh week by hosting consent workshops for the first time on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31.

It will be mandatory for anyone who has purchased a ticket to Frosh for the full week to attend the workshop prior to being let into Frosh events. “We decided we would take precautions this year and be careful and [ensure] that everyone was safe,” said ASFA internal affairs and administrative coordinator Julia Sutera Sardo. “Executives, leaders and volunteers have already undergone consent, harm reduction and the safe serve program (SSP) in preparation for frosh week.”

This is part of ASFA’s goal to reduce the typical culture surrounding Frosh, said Sutera Sardo. She said that she had not previously attended Frosh, due to not appreciating the culture of binge drinking and lack of consent surrounding the week.

However, Sutera Sardo said ASFA wanted to change how frosh was organized this year to provide a safer space for everyone attending the events. “I was really happy I got to take part in changing the culture of how things work,” she said.

ASFA social events coordiantor Marc Da Silva said Frosh is really well organized this year as opposed to last year. “I’m definitely really excited about the consent workshops that are being given,” said Da Silva. “I think that’s a necessity in making sure frosh is safer.”

Sutera Sardo said that ASFA’s goal in changing the culture of Frosh has definitely been a group effort. ASFA is working in collaboration with the Dean of Students office to provide the consent workshops.

ASFA VP of community outreach and sustainability coordinator Agunik Mamikonyan said ASFA will be hosting five different sessions for the consent training, each session lasting an hour and a half each.

“We’re going to register [Froshees] when they come in and they are going to get their bracelets by the end of the session.” Mamikonyan said this is in order to ensure all attending the week of events at Frosh will have undergone consent training.

Dean of Students Andrew Woodall said ASFA reached out to the Dean of Students to get information about consent, bystander intervention and how to organize safer events. “We’ve been working with the execs—the outgoing and incoming since January as a group on trying to change the culture of orientation of Frosh,” said Woodall.

Woodall said Froshees will undergo workshops focused on consent training and understanding how alcohol may impact and limit decision making. While executives and Frosh leaders are undergoing workshops focused on not only consent, but risk reduction as well, said Woodall. “Generally what we’re doing with the execs and the Frosh leaders is more about risk reduction—so consent and bystander [intervention], alcohol, what to watch out for and some drugs, too.”

Woodall said that the extensive training for leaders and executives is due to them setting up the event. The training will address how to set up an event in a manner with least risk to the Froshies—such as having longer lineups for alcohol, having water and food available and not having alcohol as the point of a game.

Sutera Sardo also ensured Frosh participants would have a safe space if they needed it. “I made sure that we had a safe room [for beach day], because I feel having experienced panic attacks myself before, sometimes you just don’t feel comfortable in a specific zone with people or you may be dehydrated,” said Sutera Sardo. The safe room will help those attending Frosh by offering a separate space to relax and lay down.

In addition, there will be plenty of water available, first aid certified executives and security will be present. “By implementing some chill stations and safe rooms in all of our events we’re going to be able to have that place there, in case somebody feels uncomfortable and wants to speak to us,” said Sutera Sardo.

Sutera Sardo said that in order to create a more inclusive platform for Frosh week, ASFA is trying to involve not only first years, but undergraduate and graduate students. “Frosh isn’t only about freshmen,” she said. Sutera Sardo explained the first event being the cocktail mixer party is designed to incorporate more mature students. Sardo said her goal is to make more of a connection between new students, experienced undergraduates and graduate students, as well as creating a better network between students at Sir George Williams campus and Loyola Campus.

Sutera Sardo said while planning frosh there were many meetings with other student groups and associations, as well as representatives from Concordia’s security, hospitality, electricity department and facilities management departments to generate a greater communication with one another.

“I feel like a lot of times problems that arise at Frosh all start in the planning of it, so we took about four months to plan everything,” she said.

Last year ASFA changed the title of Frosh week to “launch week” in order to change the bad vibes associate with the events. However, this year the title has been changed back to Frosh. “Students were not familiar with the term “launch” and didn’t realize it pertained to orientation activities,” said Da Silva.

“We’re doing the best we can and I really buy into this team’s desire to do away with the reputation [ASFA] had a couple of years ago,” said Woodall.

“In the end, all we want is to be able to communicate and share our ideas in a really safe manner,” said Sutera Sardo. “[ASFA] council has sometimes been an unsafe place and by having these trainings [for frosh executives] hopefully it will be safer and will be conducive to just better communication.”

This article has been updated for accuracy and clarity since publishing. The Concordian regrets the error.


Putting a face to the name: Know your administrators

Alan Shepard
University President and Vice-Chancellor

The university president is responsible for the day to day administration of the institution. The president makes recommendations to the Board of Governors for their consideration and works with his vice-presidents, staff and faculty to raise the profile of the university through publicity, promotions and elevated enrollment.

Shepard was appointed by the Board of Governors late last year to replace interim President Frederick Lowy. He grew up in the United States but immigrated to Canada in 2002 and is a citizen. He comes to us fresh out of Ryerson University, where he occupied the position of Provost and Vice-President academic since 2007. Shepard has an undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College and a PhD in English from the University of Virginia.

Bram Freedman
VP, Institutional Relations and Secretary-General

The Vice-President, Institutional Relations and Secretary–General is responsible for managing government and external relations, university governance, human resources and legal affairs. Among other things, his portfolio also encompasses “the promotion of the values of civility, equity and respect within the University” as well as “transparent and accountable university governance.”

Freedman is an attorney who was appointed in Feb. 2008. His title was modified from the original VP External Relations and Secretary–General in May 2011 because of the addition of the Human Resources to his description. In Oct. 2010, Freedman was appointed President of the Concordia University Foundation, an organization which manages funds donated to the university.

Lisa Ostiguy
Interim Provost

While the search for a new Provost is set to begin shortly in the new academic year, an interim replacement has been chosen. Lisa Ostiguy, who served as interim Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning starting in Jan. 2012, is an associate professor and the chair of the department of applied human sciences. She has been a full-time faculty member since 1992.

Before coming to Concordia, she earned her PhD in Higher Education Planning, Policy and Leadership, at the University of Iowa. She has also taught at the University of Iowa and University of Regina.

Patrick Kelley
Chief Financial Officer

The Chief Financial Officer is responsible for all things money related at Concordia. He oversees the allocation of funds, plans payment strategies, projects revenues and expenses for the university and is responsible for managing the institution’s budget.

Patrick Kelley has been Concordia’s Chief Financial Officer since July 2010 when he was officially appointed after a period of time spent as interim CFO. He has a degree in Mathematics from St. Bonaventure and continues to teach at the John Molson School of Business. He also served as ConU’s Executive Director, Strategic Plans, and as Special Advisor to the VP Services on IT.

Roger Côté
VP Services

The Vice-President of Services is responsible for overseeing admission services, student services, health services, residence life, counselling and development, dean of students office, advocacy and support services as well as recreation and athletics. Côté was appointed VP Services June 9, 2011 after he became the associate vice-president in 2006.

Côté has a bachelor’s degree from the Universite de Montreal and an MEd from McGill University. He has filled several positions at Concordia since arriving in 1981, first of all as director of the Loyola Campus Centre, then as Acting Dean of Students, director of Financial Aid and Awards Office from 1984 to 2004, and finally as Executive Director of Enrolment and Student Services.

David Graham
Senior advisor to the president

Graham has been at Concordia for a number of years and has filled several positions during that time. He came to ConU in 2005 when he was hired as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science and was promoted in 2008 to become the Provost and VP academic affairs. This summer, it was announced that Graham would not be seeking another mandate as Provost and has been appointed Senior Advisor to the President on internal strategy. He is set to take on his new position Sept. 1 of this year.

Graham is a specialist in early modern French literature with a PhD from University of Western Ontario. Before arriving at Concordia, he taught at schools across the country including Memorial University, the Royal Military College of Canada and Mount Allison University.

Andrew Woodall
Dean of Students

The dean of students is responsible for directing and planning activities through his office, co-ordinating outreach programs, and overseeing the Loyola Multi-Faith Chapel. He is there to encourage and support students at Concordia and is readily available to address concerns in his offices on both SGW and Loyola campuses. He also advises student leaders and administrators alike on issues pertaining to student life.

Woodall was appointed June 20, 2011 after his time spent as the director for the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. He has a master’s degree in management, specifically in Voluntary Sector Leadership, from McGill University.

Normand Hébert Jr.
Chair of Concordia’s Board of Governors

The role of the Board of Governors chair is to conduct the meetings and ensure that the items on the agenda are addressed. In addition, the chair must provide leadership for the other board members and keep discussion orderly and polite.

After serving as the vice-chair of Concordia’s Board of Governors, Hébert has stepped up to replace former chair Peter Kruyt as of July 1, 2012.  Hebert has a degree in commerce from Concordia and a law degree from the University of Ottawa. He has been president and chief executive officer of an automobile dealership for most of his career and sits as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Société des Alcools du Québec.

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