The University of Iowa plans to spend as much as $30,000 to make bathrooms “gender-inclusive.” It’s a surprising sum, given that the facilities on campus will remain wholly unchanged. The bathrooms are already single occupancy and open to all students. The only thing the $30K is buying is new signage proclaiming that “anyone can use this restroom, regardless of gender identity or expression.”
The pricey signage will be changed on the 147 existing campus restrooms that already have one stall and are open for use by all students. The cost of this purely rhetorical change is roughly equivalent to a year’s tuition and fees at the University of Iowa for an out-of-state student.
The president of UI Trans Alliance has claimed the signage “makes a big difference” in drawing prospective students who are transgender.
The University of Iowa knows of about 20 students who “have self-identified as transgender or non-binary on the admissions form,” said Jeneane Beck, a university spokeswoman, noting that the real number of trans students may be higher.
“This has been a student-led, grassroots project,” Beck said in an email to Heat Street. “Gender-inclusive restrooms help to create a campus that is safe, inclusive and supportive to trans students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors at the University of Iowa. Providing gender-inclusive restrooms allows people to more fully participate in campus life. “
The campus bathroom wars escalated nationwide in May, when the Department of Education and the Department of Justice issued guidance calling for schools to let students use the bathroom that corresponds with their professed gender identity.
But in Iowa, such practices were already common. In 2007, the state adopted legislation prohibiting gender-identity-based discrimination.
Likewise, the Iowa Department of Education has already issued a public-school guidance similar to the new federal one.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.