Gender-neutral changing space added to Stanford’s AOERC

The project will provide private changing and shower spaces for all patrons of the facility, including minors who are prohibited from adult changing areas on campus.

A new gender-neutral changing space is under construction at the Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC) on Santa Teresa Street. Athletics officials say the project, which will take a few more weeks to complete, is part of the university’s wider efforts to create a more inclusive environment for the campus community.

The new changing space is located on the lower level of the AOERC, in the spot of the former men’s and women’s restrooms. Both restrooms closed on Aug. 13 and are being converted into one large gender-neutral changing area. The men’s and women’s locker rooms across the hall and the restrooms on the main level remain open during construction.

A blueprint of the new gender-neutral changing space the the AOERC. (Image credit: Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation)

The right side of the new changing area, which was the men’s restroom, has been gutted for construction of three private shower and changing stalls, including one with ADA accessibility, and a fourth private changing space without a shower. The left side, which was the women’s restroom, will remain a lavatory with toilet stalls and sinks. The new space will also include day-use lockers and a swimsuit dryer.

The project, managed by the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation, is meant to provide a more inclusive environment for those who use the facility.

“The Stanford community over the past five or six years has been more vocal about all-gender spaces,” said Rebecca Carpenter, assistant athletic director for facilities and operations. “We’ve had a handful of faculty, staff and students meet with us about inclusive opportunities within recreation facilities.”

Carpenter said the project provides a space where patrons don’t have to identify with a gender in order to use it. She said it will also provide private spaces for minors, who currently have to change in toilet stalls because of a new university policy that prohibits them from entering spaces where adults are nude.

Carpenter said that gender-neutral recreation spaces on college campuses are becoming an industry standard. Similar initiatives have been implemented at other nearby schools, including the University of California, Berkeley, and California State University, Sacramento. Carpenter said that her team has been in touch with those schools to learn about those projects.

“We definitely did research as to what our peers were doing, both nationally and in the Pac-12,” she said, adding that her team has also consulted with Stanford’s Diversity and First-Gen Office to refine various aspects of the project, such as signage.

In recent years, the Stanford campus has seen an increase in the number of gender-neutral restrooms. While most of these spaces are single-occupancy, the university is moving toward multi-stall lavatories that provide greater privacy and can be utilized by everyone. Stanford has also set a goal of having gender-inclusive, single-occupancy restrooms in all campus buildings by 2020. A map showing all gender-neutral restrooms on campus is available here.

Carpenter said the new changing space at the AOERC is the first of its kind for Stanford Athletics. It is slated to open the beginning of fall quarter.

“This is a great first step in being more inclusive of the needs of our community,” said Carpenter. “There’s a lot more we can do but this moves things forward.”