Chicago-Kent College of Law Wins the 2019 Henry J. Ramsey, Jr. Diversity Award

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Chicago-Kent College of Law has won the 2019 Henry J. Ramsey, Jr. Diversity Award from the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. The award—named in honor of Henry J. Ramsey Jr., who served as dean of the Howard University School of Law from 1990 to 1996—recognizes Chicago-Kent’s efforts to create a more welcoming environment for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming members of the law school community. 

Elisabeth Hieber '19 and Tobias Rodriguez '19 in front of one of the new gender-neutral restrooms
Elisabeth Hieber '19 (left) and Tobias Rodriguez '19 advocated for gender-neutral restrooms at Chicago-Kent. They're pictured here holding the awards they received at the annual diversity graduation celebration.

“Chicago-Kent has a longstanding commitment to ensuring an academic and professional culture that embraces diversity and inclusion,” says Dean Anita K. Krug. “I congratulate the Lambdas on spearheading these meaningful initiatives to support our transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming community members and to bolster equity and awareness among all of us.”

The Chicago-Kent Lambdas, a student organization for LGBTQ students and their allies, worked with the law school administration to create two gender-neutral restrooms and to encourage members of the law school community to share their pronouns in their email signatures and on name tags. 

“The gender-neutral bathrooms and pronoun campaign communicates to trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming students that their needs are recognized and that they are welcomed members of the Chicago-Kent community,” says Elisabeth Hieber ’19, who served as Lambdas secretary for 2018–19. “As a trans nonbinary person myself, these changes made me feel safe and respected in my identity.” 

Over the past year, the Lambdas have encouraged faculty, staff, and students to include their pronouns in their email signatures and to display signs at events asking attendees to share their pronouns on their name tags.

Based on a series of listening sessions with the faculty diversity committee and an anonymous student survey, the Lambdas identified gender-neutral restrooms as a necessary and attainable solution to help gender-diverse students and visitors feel more comfortable on campus.  At the time, the only gender-neutral restroom was a hard-to-find, single-use restroom in the library. 

The Lambdas sent a letter to then-Dean Harold Krent and Assistant Dean Stephen Sowle proposing gender-neutral restrooms that anyone can use. 

“They surprised me with how open they were to this idea, and it really just came down to the logistics,” says Tobias Rodriguez ’19, who served as president of the Lambdas for 2018–19.

Dawn Rupcich, an assistant dean who is in charge of facilities for the Downtown Campus, planned the renovations to the former men’s room on the law school’s concourse level, where many of the student organization offices, lockers, and classrooms are located. The former women’s restroom was also designated as gender-neutral but didn’t require renovations. The Lambdas helped design signage for the gender-neutral restrooms and recommended posting signs on restrooms throughout the building directing visitors to the gender-neutral restrooms. 

The new gender-neutral restrooms opened for use at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester. 

“Right now, two of the three classes of law students have never known those bathrooms to be anything but gender-neutral,” says Rodriguez.