Think before you squat
All bathrooms have a stall specifically for use by those who may have trouble using regular stalls.
BY ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Managing Editor
As the first full week of school comes to a close, most of us students have begun to settle into our fall semester routine. We know how long we can linger in the UC before walking across campus for class, and when is the best time to go to Subway so the line isn’t horribly long. But there is also a less glamorous part of the habitual schedule: using the restrooms on campus.
Some are cleaner than others. Some are less crowded. Some in the science building are, I am convinced, a time machine from the 1950’s. However, all of these facilities have one thing in common: they all have a stall specifically for use by those who may have trouble using regular stalls.
Late last year, a member of the janitorial staff came up to the Michigan Journal office as Sarah and I were studying in the main room. Asking to speak to someone on staff, we told her to come in and asked what I could do for her. Clearly affected, she immediately relayed her story.
As she was in one of the downstairs bathrooms at the University Center, a female student entered and walked into the wheelchair-accessible stall. Soon after, another student, this one with a physical disability, also entered the restroom.
After waiting for a minute or so, it was clear that the first student was not going to be out very soon. And so, she did what any person would do who had to go: went into the closest stall she could find. However, this task was not as easy for her as for others. The staff member told us how heartbreaking it was to watch the second student try and work herself into a regular stall. Not only was it uncomfortable, but she also could have been hurt further with the struggle.
After telling us her tale, she asked if we could do something about it. Get the word out that this was wrong, that it was not fair.
For some reason or another, an article was never written. Exams, final papers, and planning for summer pushed the reminder to put the janitorial staff member’s story into words out of my mind.
But I have not forgotten the moral.
I will be the first to admit that I have quite often used the wheelchair-accessible bathroom stalls. Perhaps it is a vestige of childhood, when one automatically assumes that bigger is better. Sometimes I have to change outfits, in which a bigger stall is more convenient.
Sometimes, in a crowded restroom in between classes, it is the only option available. But ever since meeting with this woman, I sincerely think before I choose which stall to walk into. Even if I am the only one in the bathroom, I leave that bigger stall empty. Because I will never know if someone who really needs the extra space will come along after me.
As the semester drags one and students go into auto-pilot mode, I just ask that you take some time and consider others before you do “the potty dance.” Our diverse campus is home to students from all walks of life, with all different kinds of abilities. We need to support our diversity and support them in turn. Even though a choice of bathroom stalls may seem like a minute solution, I believe it can go the distance in the long run.
And to the inspiring member of our janitorial staff, wherever you are – I’m sorry this took so long. Thank you for altering my perspective.