A new infographic explaining Campus Recreation’s long-standing clothing policy has become a topic of discussion for many concerned students and alumni.
The graphic explained that all clothing must cover the chest, midriff and back. Additionally, athletic shoes must have non-marking outsoles. Pants and shorts must not not have exposed straps, strings or loose parts. Those in violation of the dress policy can check out a t-shirt free of charge at Equipment Issue.
Only seeing the information presented on the graphic, junior criminal justice and psychology major Hailey Dearing, of Chatham, Illinois,said the dress policy came off as more sexist than anything.
“With the what you shouldn’t wear [part], I don’t like how three out of four are women. I just think that’s kind of sexist and aimed extremely at women,” Dearing said.
In addition to Dearing, senior Spanish and vocal performance major Bel Da Silva, of Manchester, Missouri, expressed concern that the dress code was targeting women. Many of the over 40 shares and over 78 Facebook comments on the infographic post presented the same worries.
Campus Recreation Fitness Coordinator Amanda Couch said while she did not read all of the social media comments surrounding the policy, she did see some about this and said that was not the intent of the poster.
“I didn’t get to read a majority of the comments but I did read one of the very first comments about the concern about the poster being sexist … that was a hard comment to read because in trying to create the poster, we looked at what a lot of other schools had done,” Couch said. “With women, there’s a whole slew of different opportunities with tank tops and how they’re cut and everything like that, so we certainly aren’t trying to target one gender over the other, but it’s just trying to help create that clear understanding of what our policy is and recognizing that there’s a lot more variety of tops that females have to choose from than males.”
Having been approached about a shirt that showed her midriff while working out, Dearing said she felt uncomfortable. Dearing said she was not offered to check out a t-shirt, but rather told to keep the policy in mind for next time.
Dearing said she fears what the implications of the policy could be for other women.
“I don’t really see that many women at the gym; it’s mostly dominated by men, and I just feel like with them really enforcing the policy, we’re just going to see fewer women because it makes us really uncomfortable to go somewhere and wonder if our clothes are OK and wondering if we’re going to be targeted or kicked out to change or have to rent a t-shirt,” Dearing said.
Safety and protection against viruses and infections are cited on the infographic as the reasons behind the policy.
According to Couch, a lot of Campus Recreation’s standards are inspired by NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation. They also look at what other universities have implemented in order to minimize the risk of infections such as MRSA and staph.One common recommendation is to maintain a layer of clothing between equipment and bodies.
“Having the material barrier between you and a piece of equipment is going to help protect you further,” Couch said. “We have spray around the facility that people should spray before and after they use a piece of equipment, but the reality is, does everybody do it? No. I see a lot of people do it after, does everyone do it before? No. So it’s just one more layer, and it does help with preserving the equipment.”
Even with this rationale, the policy has left some, including Da Silva, to question why certain parts of the body are permitted to be shown while others must be covered.
“There’s nothing any more or less sanitary than your back touching the surface versus your arm or your leg, and there’s no dress code about shorts. It was just the tops,” Da Silva said.
Couch said the torso is most likely to come in contact with the equipment, which factors into the current clothing restrictions.
“When you’re sitting against a bench or doing anything, what’s the main portion that’s going to be touching? It’s going to be the torso,” Couch said. “I do think, yes, there’s still potential that shoulders and shoulder blades are going to touch, there’s potential that your arms are going to touch, but… there’s really no way for me to get around my torso touching part of a bench.”
Both Couch and Director of Campus Recreation Keith Becherer recognize the clothing policy will not completely eliminate chances of contracting an infection or communicable disease but believe it’s a good start.
“I don’t think you can ever [completely] eliminate risk,” Becherer said. “You can’t prevent most things, but you try to minimize. So, what we are trying to do is educate people on ways to potentially minimize those opportunities.”
Senior mass communications major Blake White, of Effingham, Illinois, said he agrees the dress code can help one stay healthy; however, he said it does not guarantee one will not contract a communicable disease or infection. When he contracted a staph infection while using Campus Recreation’s equipment last year, White said his clothing had not made a difference.
“I got staph while I was there, and I was wearing a t-shirt and everything,” White said. “I got staph on my forehead last year. It was from using the weight room, and I had scratched my head; I had an open cut on my forehead. I [understand] the whole spread of diseases and everything, but there’s nothing you can really do. You could force everybody to wear long sleeves, and it would still happen because with your hands, you’re touching everything.”
Dearing said she wishes the graphic would have provided cited information detailing exactly how the clothing policy would help Campus Recreation users to stay healthy.
“I would have to see the statistics. SIUE has a habit of just throwing out these things, like they just state something, and they have no proof to back it up,” Dearing said. “I think they would get less backlash if they provided statistics or actual evidence to support what they’re saying.”
Dearing, White and De Silva all said they would like to see more education surrounding how to properly clean the equipment instead of just hearing about the clothing policy.
“I just feel like it’s not the right way to go about it, and if it’s really for disease and infections, then they would show a diagram of how they clean the equipment,” Dearing said.
In addition to safety and equipment preservation, Becherer said the dress policy helps to provide an inclusive environment where all users — regardless of fitness level or experience using the facility — can feel comfortable.
“The part that is sometimes maybe not thought about much from the students’ perspective is that we are really trying to provide an inclusive environment and make everyone feel welcome in our spaces and in our facilities,” Becherer said. “What is that message to all the students if I walk into a facility and I use the weight room if everyone’s in there with no shirts on and power-lifting? It doesn’t always send the most inclusive message.”
Da Silva said she does not see the validity in this thought process and thinks it just compromises the comfort level of the individual wearing, or not wearing, the clothing in question.
“Trying to make people hide their body who work really hard so that maybe people who aren’t at that level feel more comfortable is absurd because everybody should be able to dress to their own comfort level,” Da Silva said.
More information on the dress policy can be found under the policies and procedures section of Campus Recreation’s website.