At SGA Plenary, Bryn Mawr Undergrads Vote to Increase Access to Restrooms, Computers

Posted October 13th, 2010 at 8:22 pm.

Bryn Mawr’s undergraduate student body voted in favor of expanding access — to restrooms and computers— when it passed two resolutions at its plenary, or general meeting, this month.

The first resolution supports making all single-use restrooms in nonresidential spaces on campus gender-neutral; the second establishes two student liaisons to the College’s Information Services Department to help ensure that students have 24-hour access to College-owned computers.

In Goodhart Hall’s McPherson Auditorium, the air was festive: pop music played, students breakfasted, and clubs raised money while waiting for quorum, the minimum number of students required for voting, to be reached. Proceedings officially started at 12:45 p.m., when the student count in the building reached 431, or one third of the student body.

Audra Fannon ’11 presented the resolution on gender-neutral restrooms. Fannon explained that there are several lockable, single-use restrooms (bathrooms with only one toilet) at Bryn Mawr and that even though they are labeled by gender, women often use the men’s bathrooms “when faced with the inconvenience of waiting for a single-use women’s restroom.” She also explained that individuals with non-binary genders can feel uncomfortable with using a gendered restroom.

Fannon proposed that a committee of three student volunteers be formed to aid the College’s facilities-services department in identifying which of these single-use bathrooms could be instead labeled as unisex for the ease and comfort of all Bryn Mawr students.

After the presentation of the resolution, plenary members lined up at one of three microphones (pro, con, and question) to voice their opinions or ask for clarification. Members may also present amendments to resolutions during this discussion period. No amendments were proposed for Resolution #1, and discussion was completed after only a few minutes. The resolution proceeded to a vote, which it passed.

About the passage of her resolution, Fannon said, “It feels really good. It’s validating to know that my fellow students agree. The next step for the resolution will be taken up at the next SGA meeting, where a committee of students will be appointed to work with Facilities Services on relabeling the restrooms.

Yong Jung Cho ’12 presented the resolution concerning students’ access to computers. The resolution, written by Sophie Papavizas ’11, posited that computer access is ” necessary for academic success in the 21st century.” While Information Services has been receptive to students’ needs, it continued, there is no consistent line of communication from the student body to the Information Services Office.

The resolution proposed that two undergraduates be appointed by the Student Government Association Appointments Committee to serve as Computer Access Coordinators to be the link from the student body to the administration. Like the first resolution, the computer-access resolution provoked little controversy: discussion was minimal and it was passed when put to a vote.

“I’m happy that at Bryn Mawr we have the opportunity to engage in our community through Plenary,” said Papavizas afterwards. “It formalizes the process of change on campus and . . . can be really empowering when students take ownership of the process.”

Plenary is one of the tools of self-governance that Bryn Mawr students use to make their voices heard. The Bryn Mawr Self-Government Association (SGA) is the oldest in the nation, and it exercises an unusual degree of control over matters ranging from dormitory rules to the administration of the College’s honor code. “I feel privileged to be part of a college community where students are encouraged to be independent,” said Audra after plenary, “The ‘grown-ups’ who work here respect our independence.”

The SGA’s elected assembly meets weekly to discuss campus issues, and the next full-campus plenary will take place in the spring. For more information about Bryn Mawr SGA, visit the Student Activities website.

— Ellie Rhymer ’11

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