Last month, on two separate occasions — Sept. 15 and 19 — two women reported that they saw a cellphone reach over the shower stall dividers in an attempt to record them. As a result, Whitney Hall and its four University College housing affiliates have revoked their gender-neutral policy on many of the residence’s washrooms.
In a statement to The Varsity, Melinda Scott, dean of students at University College, said, “Given the serious nature of these incidents and the impact on directly affected students, we made the decision to specifically designate some washrooms throughout the building for those who identify as men and those who identify as women. At the same time, there remains at least one gender-neutral washroom per floor and per house.”
But is reducing the number of gender-neutral washrooms more of a Band-Aid solution rather than a real attempt to tackle the disturbing violation? Scott admits, “The purpose of this temporary measure is to provide a safe space for the women who have been directly impacted by these events and other students who may feel more comfortable in a single gender washroom in the wake of these incidents. We do not expect the designation of these washrooms alone to resolve this matter; it is a complex situation that requires a multi-layered approach.”
Meanwhile, students have expressed their fear and frustration at the situation. Reynolds Garret, another freshman resident, told The Varsity that “this issue is not strictly about someone taking pictures; it is about a violation of the trust that our residence experience is based on.”
This isn’t the first time the university has been threatened by voyeurism. Back in 2012, police charged a man accused of recording or attempting to record images of a woman in a University of Toronto washroom. In that case, the victim told police she was in one of the stalls when she noticed an iPhone facing her from under the stall.
Campus Police have urged anyone with any information on the voyeurism incidents at Whitney Hall to contact them.