New initiatives highlight WSU’s commitment to gender inclusivity

Assortment of pride flags representing LGBTQ.
Pride flag stickers that are distributed by GIESORC at WSU. In September, WSU was named to Campus Pride’s “Best of the Best” Top 30 LGBTQ‑friendly college list. Photo by Jenna Polito, Division of Student Affairs.

By Jenna Polito, Division of Student Affairs

As part of its commitment to inclusivity, Washington State University has embarked on several initiatives focused on improving the transgender community experience on campus. The projects have led to updates in building codes, CougarCard policy, and more.

These changes are the result of collaboration between many WSU departments and stakeholders, including the Gender Inclusive and Trans* Support Working Group. The working group, which is part of the university’s Campus Culture & Climate Initiative, has been charged with addressing inequities across WSU campuses.

“Throughout the system, students are coming forward and advocating for change,” said Nolan Yaws‑Gonzalez, working group member and assistant director at the WSU Vancouver Student Center. “We’re going to make changes that impact the whole system.”

One of these changes involved updating the WSU Design & Construction Standards. Now, the systemwide standards mandate that all new building construction and renovations include at least one single‑user restroom facility.

The working group also has collaborated with campus partners to update the WSU Business Policies and Procedures Manual (BPPM) so that WSU community members across the system can use a chosen or correct first and middle name on their CougarCard.

“Affirming folks’ identities on their CougarCard is a really big piece for us,” said Matthew Jeffries, who is the director of the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC) at WSU Pullman, as well as the co‑chair of the working group.

Prior to this change, individuals were required to use their legal name on their CougarCard. However, the restriction was alienating for a number of people who use chosen names, including some transgender community members.

“We’ve involved a large number of departments and individuals in this process, to gain their input and shape what this change would look like,” said Craig Howard, director of Information Systems and the Cougar Card Center.

Now, students, faculty and staff can enter a chosen name in MyWSU and will be able to have their chosen first and middle names, and their official last name, printed on their CougarCard. An updated card will be issued at no cost.

At WSU Pullman, free menstrual products are currently being piloted in three men’s restrooms at the Student Recreation Center, Compton Union Building, and Chinook Student Center. The working group is also assessing similar needs at other WSU campuses.

These strides towards gender inclusivity coincide with recent national recognition for WSU’s overall commitment to LGBTQ‑inclusion. In September, WSU was named to Campus Pride’s “Best of the Best” Top 30 LGBTQ‑friendly college list. Campuses are selected for inclusion based on their overall rankings in the Campus Pride Index, a benchmarking tool which self‑assesses LGBTQ‑friendly policies, programs, and practices, as well as specific LGBTQ‑inclusive benchmark measures.

“This ranking is exciting because it shows that we’re building on the work of the students and professionals before us,” Jeffries said. “When I receive emails, I get to take those concerns, thoughts, and needs to the people who will listen and want to make change happen—here in Pullman and across the system.”

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