TU’s dean of students, Mike Mills, called the changes a way to proactively support students.
Recently, TU students may have noticed the campus has 18 all-gender bathrooms located in a variety of spots to ease use.
Mike Mills, the associate vice president for enrollment and student services and dean of students, was part of the push for these changes.
While Mills received the position last February, he feels “certain that the discussion [about all-gender bathrooms] had been going on prior to [his hiring].” His interest came from two major sources: a seminar at OU-Tulsa about working with transgender students and a discussion with a particular student.
Several TU staff attended the seminar, which gave them basics on transgender students and accommodations or policies that might be involved.
“That was really impactful to me,” Mills said, so he began asking questions. As staff began having discussions on the topic, a student came to them, concerned about the lack of designated facilities available to them on campus.
“I felt it was my responsibility to investigate that and propel that forward,” Mills said, and he began looking for facilities that would be available to make a change. The Advocacy Alliance was also heavily involved.
Mills then took the plan to Earl Johnson, the vice president of enrollment management and student services, and soon facilities were changed.
The physical plant selected the restrooms. They wanted to find places which had alternative restrooms available, so that students would have the opportunity to use the one they are most comfortable with.
“The lesson for all of us is to be thinking proactively about issues that affect our students before somebody brings it to us or before it is a problem,” Mills said. As the student population changes, Mills wants students to continue to feel equal and supported by TU.
So far, Mills has gotten a positive response from students and faculty about the all-gender restrooms. A component of this positive response, according to Mills, is “making sure we’re helping everyone understand why that was important.”
Mills is currently working on locating a permanent location for mothers to breastfeed on campus. A student brought her concern to Mills in the past week, and while he has found several temporary locations, he hopes to soon find a room breastfeeding mothers can regularly go, potentially in the student union.
“I want us to continue to think ahead of the game and anticipate the needs of students,” he said. He’s also helped families find baby-changing locations on campus.
Ultimately, Mills is here to serve students’ needs, and he believes that the newly designated restrooms are a part of that. He has an open-door policy for his office in Hardesty Hall, on the third floor, or is available by email for students.