The Recreation and Athletic Center (TRAC) is the gym on UIS campus available to all students. Recently, a student named Sophia Moore went to TRAC to work out. Moore said that, while she was at the gym, a student worker came up to her holding two t-shirts and said she was not allowed to wear her current shirt. She stated, “I honestly thought he was messing with me at first, so I kind of stared at him blankly until I realized he was, in fact, serious. He offered me a shirt to change into, and I went to the locker room and changed.” Moore was deeply upset by this situation, especially since her outfit was nothing out of the ordinary. In her own words, she was “wearing high-waisted leggings and a cropped t-shirt.” The t-shirt in question only showed about two inches of her midriff.
Moore did state that the reason this situation upset her so much was due to the fact that the rules are not evenly enforced between men and women. She states that men have gone to the gym in “cut-offs” that show way more skin than her outfit did that day. To demonstrate agreement among the student body, Moore created the virtual petition titled “Being allowed to wear cropped shirts to workout at a public university,” which has gathered over 368 virtual signatures. Many of the comments agreed with her view that the policy is more oriented towards women, with one commenter writing: “I’m signing because it’s time to stop policing women’s bodies.”
The university is working to respond to this policy through multiple avenues. To start, James Koeppe, the Director of Campus Recreation, did respond to the issue of the dress code. He did not know that students felt that the policies were being enforced unfairly and said, “I will remind Campus Rec staff to enforce policies fairly and equally and share with them what is being said… It is in no way intended to mitigate what women can or cannot wear.” This dress code policy at TRAC was specifically created to lower the transmission of communicable diseases through sharing workout equipment. While the intent of the policy was good, Koeppe states that he is “asking colleagues in the field to review the policy and [is] working with University legal staff.” While it may take time to figure out the future of this policy, TRAC is working towards discussing the benefits and detriments of the policy staying in place.
In response to the health concerns, Moore did raise a valid point. She states, “In addition to this, I looked into the rules at the facilities of the other schools in the U of I system…their rules do not show an issue with midriff being shown. UIC policies actually encourage individuals to wear whatever they feel comfortable in.” UIS is the only school within the U of I system with this sort of dress code policy.
Student Government has also become involved with this issue. At the Feb. 7 SGA meeting, President Aislinn Diaz did bring the dress code issue to the members’ attention. When asked to comment on this issue, both President Aislinn Diaz and Treasurer Max Pernitsky commented on how student government and the school should move forward. To start, Diaz said:
“As SGA, we will not let the voices of over 300 students go unheard. While it is understood the policy was put in place to keep students safe, it has been noted that it is mainly enforced on women rather than men. Whether intentional or not, TRAC administrators have been made aware, and now need to make this right. SGA will continue to monitor and communicate with administrators to ensure a solution is presented in a timely manner.”
“The situation regarding the dress code at TRAC is saddening… As a former athlete and certified sports official, I do not understand how they label this issue as a ‘health issue.’ However, I do trust our administration and do believe they will come up with a solution… With that being said, I support all students and their voices, and I will be following this ongoing situation.”
While there will be no overnight fix to this issue, the dress code policy at TRAC is being thoroughly examined. It is important for students to continue using their voices to show the university ways in which it can improve. It is also crucial that those in power, such as administrators and student government officials, continue to listen to the students.