Recreation Center opens additional changing rooms

By Matt Daray

Students looking for extra privacy at the Student Recreation Center now have the means to change their clothes in peace.

The Recreation Center converted its facilities during the summer to offer individual changing rooms for students, an effort that also offers transgender students an opportunity to change outside of the gender-specific male and female dressing rooms. Several university officials said this change is part of the university taking steps to build a more inclusive environment.

Troy Vaughn, director of Recreational Sports and Services at the Student Recreation Center, said the rooms were created to accommodate the need for additional privacy, which both students and locals requested even before he started as director in 2012. Sar


“We’ve had some comments from a wide assortment of patrons,” he said. “These could be parents with kids who felt uncomfortable with changing in the locker rooms. We’ve had transgender individuals come to us; we’ve had other individuals who asked for more private places to change.”

While the rooms have been added to accommodate suggestions, members of the university and student body also see this as a way to increase inclusiveness on campus for transgender students.

Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender and Queer Resource Center, said Recreation Center officials came to her to learn how to better meet LGBTQ students’ needs.

“I’m really excited about the fact that this project is the model of the kind of collaboration and partnerships that I love to see and welcome more and more of at SIUC,” she said.

Weinhold said she suggested focus groups be organized in order to find out what LGBTQ students would like to have at the gym. The focus groups led to discussions with national experts and students, which contributed to the creation of the changing rooms, she said.

One transgender student said the new changing rooms are a step forward in the university’s effort to embrace its student body.

Sarah Self, a graduate student in social work from Lafayette, La., said the addition of the changing rooms is beneficial for students and staff who have asked for different options.


“The changing space and, particularly, the pool access has been a barrier for me personally, and I think for my community in general for the entire time I’ve been at SIU,” she said.

Self said she was thrilled that the Recreation Center staff reached out to the transgender community to find out how to improve access and comfort. The recent addition has been the largest accommodation toward the transgender community she has ever seen at the university, she said.

Other students said even though additional changing rooms exist, they didn’t have a problem with transgender students using their respective locker rooms in the first place.

Alia Chaaban, a sophomore from Chicago studying business management, said she supports the addition of the changing rooms.

“I support it. I mean if that’s who you are, that’s who you are,” she said. “If you think you’re a woman, then you’re a woman. If you think you’re a man, you’re a man. No one can take it away from you.”

Matt Heberlie, a sophomore from Chester studying aviation flight, said he doesn’t have a problem with the new changing rooms, and he doesn’t have an issue with transgender students in the men’s locker room.

“I guess not, cause really in the men’s locker room, they tend not to care about who’s in there and they just do their thing and get out,” he said. “I guess it really wouldn’t matter either way.”