New app helps students find single-use restrooms, nursing nests on campus

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - anyBODYS app

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - anyBODYS app

Jess Hodge

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The debate regarding transgender people and public bathrooms isn’t one that people take lightly and has been cause for heated arguments around the nation. Grand Valley State University, in its recent push to make the campus more inclusive, has launched an app to help students find single-user restrooms on campus.

The app, which is aptly named “anyBODYS,” was created through collaboration among the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, the Division of Inclusion and Equity and Teaching Through Technology (T3). T3 is a team of GVSU students, faculty and alumni who strive to share their knowledge through technology.

Staff members at GVSU’s LGBT Resource Center reached out to T3 after they felt there was a strong need to help the campus community.

Andrew Plague, communication and project coordinator at the Division of Inclusion and Equity, said the motivating factor for the app was transgender and gender non-conforming Lakers.

“The main point is for students, faculty and staff to be able to find restrooms on campus that they’re comfortable using,” Plague said. “Someone who is transgender or gender non-conforming might not feel comfortable using a public restroom so they’re looking for a place where they know they are not going to face any form of harassment.”

Plague said anyBODYS also benefits other groups of people as well, including people with disabilities and parents on campus. He said using the restroom can be complicated, especially for people in wheelchairs that have to maneuver around or for people who have an aid who accompanies them to the restroom.

“The third large group I think that benefits from this app are student parents and professors or staff members who are nursing,” Plague said. “It also helps find (a) variety of nursing nests throughout campus, a comfortable private place to breastfeed.”

It is difficult to determine and assess how many transgender or gender non-conforming students, faculty and staff are on campus, as this information is not something they need to report to the university. The data from the most recent campus climate survey suggested 1 percent of the students who took the survey identified as transgender, gender non-conforming. Although 1 percent may seem small, that is still about 250 students. This number does not include faculty and staff.

Marla Wick, assistant director at the LGBT Resource Center, believes the app will benefit everyone in the GVSU community.

“Not everyone feels comfortable and safe using gender-segregated multi-stall restrooms,” she said in an email statement. “The anyBODYS app is a development that is consistent with GVSU’s mission to create an educational environment that welcomes everyone, and we all have bodies.”

The app has received praise and feedback from faculty, staff and students, Wick said. Some users even suggested bathrooms that weren’t previously listed on the app.

The anyBODYS home screen lists all GVSU campuses for users to pick from. After selecting a location, the user can then click on a building or they have the option to select nursing nest locations to choose from.

Once the user clicks on a building and selects a restroom, there are written instructions to help the user locate the restroom or nursing nests. If they select the nursing nest option, each location then lists the features for parents. There is also an option for the user to see a picture of the location.

“I think it is a good addition because its just one more way we can show students, staff and faculty that they belong here, that Grand Valley is inclusive and accessible to all people regardless of identity,” Plague said. “I think it’s a positive contribution to our campus and I also think it’s a great demonstration of how anyone can make a positive contribution to our campus climate and to inclusion at Grand Valley.”

The T3 team is setting out wristbands in the dorm this upcoming weekend for students to wear and show their support for the anyBODYS app. Star Swift, associate professor and faculty adviser for the T3 team, said the wristbands are not to promote the app, rather promote the idea behind the app.

“Our hope is that the wristbands are worn not only to advertise the mobile app. We want people to wear them as a way of saying: our campus is for anyBODY,” she said via email. “We think this of special import as the fall legislation goes forward and the court addresses carious relevant issues, issues that impact not only bathrooms but also employment rights.”

An email account has been set up for the GVSU community to provide feedback. Download the app and submit feedback to [email protected].

“If a person does not feel comfortable using the bathroom on campus, they will have a hard time feeling comfortable and welcome while working or attending classes or even just visiting,” Wick said. “When we prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable people, everyone benefits.”