Photo: Premila D'Sa

Women’s and all-gender washrooms scarce in Kerr Hall

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By Premila D’Sa

After 20 minutes, Keely Cromwell still couldn’t find a washroom. The second-year psychology student was already late for class but her biological needs were a more urgent matter. A majority of Cromwell’s classes are located in Kerr Hall. She often finds herself on quests to find women’s washrooms. She said she feels like she passes several men’s washrooms before she’s able to find a single women’s one. And when she does, it’s often after walking halfway across the building or making her way up multiple floors.

An Eyeopener investigation found that there are fewer women’s washrooms in Kerr Hall than men’s ones. To be exact, Kerr Hall has a total of 25 men’s washrooms, 17 women’s, seven all-gender, accessible washrooms, 2 unisex washrooms, 6 women’s staff washrooms, and one single men’s washroom.

At least one accessible washroom is required on each floor to follow Ontario accessibility building regulations.

According to the Ontario Building Code, non-residential post-secondary buildings need to have one bathroom (which they call “water closets” in the code) for every 100 males and one washroom for every 75 females. Ryerson currently has 15,764 undergraduate male students and 19,382 undergraduate female students. There are no statistics highlighting the number of non-binary students.

Despite what the numbers show, the school actually isn’t breaking regulations.

The code exempts older buildings from having to follow present-day regulations, only the standard of the building code from the time it was constructed. These buildings are referred to as “grandfathered in” since they are older structures. Construction on Kerr Hall started in 1957 and was completed in 1963. Ontario’s first building code was only regulated in 1975.

Besides the lack of women’s washrooms, there’s also a problem with location. On the second floor of Kerr Hall west, where fashion labs are housed, there are no washrooms in the entire hallway. Students have to walk across two hallways to come across a men’s washroom. They would only find a women’s washroom at the end of the third hallway.

It is possible that Ryerson hasn’t updated the building’s washrooms because of the gender demographics of the building. In 2014, renovations at the Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre converted all but one men’s washroom on the fifth floor into women’s washrooms. The Eyeopener reported that the washrooms had been converted to accommodate the large amount of female students on the floor.

Currently, Kerr Hall is the main location of several engineering and science faculties that have traditionally been male-dominant and some still are. The chemical engineering faculty, which is based on the second floor, has 322 undergraduate male students and only 156 undergraduate female students. According to Ryerson’s University Planning Office, the number of female students enrolled in STEM fields has more than doubled in the past decade–but Kerr Hall doesn’t accommodate the increase.

The university’s biomedical physics department is based on the third floor. There are a 101 male students and 103 female, but the floor has four men’s washrooms and two women’s washrooms.

Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said the university has no plans right now to convert any washrooms in Kerr Hall to either women’s or all-gender washrooms, but the university is in the process of conducting an audit of all washrooms across campus.

Lachemi said there’s also a high concentration of women’s washrooms on the second floor of Kerr Hall west because it was the location of several female-dominated programs, including fashion, early childhood education and food administration. The Eyeopener found that the concentration of women’s washrooms on the second floor was focused in the north and east wings.

Cromwell often finds herself returning to class late after her mission to find a women’s washroom. Her professors have never been angry, but the ordeal is still embarrassing for her. She then has to maneuver between the tight desk spaces in Kerr Hall’s cramped classrooms.

“I have to disturb everyone just to get a seat!”

Her male counterparts had already taken theirs.

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