The Keohane Sports Center (KSC) has had a long-standing rule that required students to wear a full coverage t-shirt when using the exercise equipment. Due to complaints from students who found the rule impractical and restrictive, PERA administration has revised the legislation this semester to allow students to wear sports bras and crop tops as long as they place a towel between their skin in the equipment. The News (TWN) asked Director of Athletics Bethany Ellis (BE) about the course of action taken throughout making this decision.
TWN: Where in the Wellesley Athletics Department legislation can the rule that students are not allowed to wear sports bras or crop tops in the KSC be found, or was it an unwritten rule that had been enforced by staff throughout the years?
BE: The guidelines and policies for Fitness Center patrons previously required that “shirts, athletic shoes, and proper athletic attire must be worn at all times.” That policy could be found on the Membership and Policies page of the PERA website https://www.wellesley.edu/athletics/facilitieshours/membership_policies#policies. We also learned through this process that there had been inconsistent enforcement of this particular rule. Our policies are now being updated to reflect that “appropriate athletic attire is required at all times throughout the facility” and “when using the fitness center, patrons wearing tank tops, sports bras or full mesh shirts must place towels between themselves and the equipment pads for sanitation purposes.” We would like all students to know that towels will not be provided by the KSC, and if a patron forgets or does not have a towel, then they will be asked to put their shirt on or not use any equipment in which their bare skin is touching equipment or mats. Please just remember to bring a towel next time!
TWN: What is/was the reasoning for prohibiting students from wearing these articles of clothing?
BE: Our goal is always to be welcoming of all students and Fitness Center users, and we ask that all patrons be considerate of others. We required that shirts, athletic shoes and proper athletic attire be worn at all times to encourage patrons to practice healthy hygiene habits when working out and to limit the amount of sweat that is transferred from a user to the machines. This is both for sanitation purposes and to help maintain the lifespan of the equipment so that it can be used in the best condition by everyone who would like to use the facility. We believe that requiring the use of towels as a barrier will meet this objective. We also wanted to be a place where [people of] all body types and experience levels feel welcome and comfortable. While this goal remains a priority, we also recognize that sports bras and crop tops are now commonplace workout attire and we don’t want our clothing policies to deter students from using the facility.
TWN: Was the discussion to change the rule initiated by student demand, or had it been an ongoing discussion among faculty?
BE: This policy was in existence prior to my arrival to Wellesley. While the policy has been reviewed at multiple points in the past several years, a student request initiated a new round of review.
TWN: How was changing the rule approached by the administration? What factors were taken into consideration?
BE: We reviewed student feedback, previous communications regarding this topic and the policies of other institutions and discussed them within the context of current trends. We recognized that our policy could be updated to allow students to feel their most comfortable while exercising while also meeting the sanitation standards that we want to maintain in the space. It was an easy decision to support our students and we hope to see many students in the Fitness Center and the KSC taking advantage of the opportunity to workout, especially as the days are shorter and weather turns colder this winter!