The current SFU gym dress code isn’t working (part two)

After talking to some students who go to the gym regularly, I focused my attention on the staff

Image courtesy of Simon Fraser University

Written by: Victoria Lopatka, Peak Associate

In my previous article on the topic of dress codes, I spoke about my thoughts on the SFU Fitness Center’s current dress code, and gathered the opinions of regular student gym-goers as well.

A word from SFU Fitness Centre Representatives

I decided to take my questions straight to the people who create and enforce the code. I contacted Nick Sirski, the fitness coordinator at the SFU Fitness Center. I had quite a few unanswered questions: why are crop tops and cut-off shirts prohibited? Can students not be trusted to use common sense and make their own choices? Why do some students get away with breaking the dress code and not others?

“We require all of our members to adhere to a dress code policy for personal hygiene, health, and safety,” said Sirski. “Research indicates that diseases, such as MRSA infections, are spread by bodily fluids, such as sweat, saliva, etc. Requiring users wear shirts during workouts prevents excessive sweat from being spread to the equipment and then to another user. Even though we request users clean the machines after use, not everyone does.”

Sirski added that, when the dress code is explained to members, they often “understand and appreciate” the gym’s efforts to minimize the spread of infectious diseases and promote safety.

Admittedly, this interview left me feeling unsatisfied, and some of my questions unanswered. In speaking with staff members in the gym, similar vague answers of “safety and health” were echoed.

Agha Ali Shamyle, a staff member who has been volunteering at the gym for one month also raised the issue of sweat: “Firstly, let me begin by saying that my views are my own and are in no way associated with SFU Rec. Now, the dress code policy . . . is for hygienic reasons. Different people sweat differently, and one cannot mandate that a gym member cleans up after themselves.”

When asked why he thinks many students have negative opinions on the dress code, he said, “My opinion on the reason why that is would be, and it’s a generalization, that young people are generally uncomfortable with the notion of rules. Same reason why they aren’t a fan of the speed limit on highways, or why students living on residence are not big on the anti-drug, anti-weed, anti-public drinking rules.”

My opinion on this issue

Personally, I’m not against the dress code simply because I am “uncomfortable with the notion of the rules.” In fact, I have no problem with following speed limits on highways and refraining from public drinking. I do, however, have a problem with overly-restrictive and somewhat unnecessary dress codes.

To summarize last week’s coverage, when I first saw the dress code posted, I was confused as to why it would be such a big issue for students to show a few inches of skin on their backs, stomachs or around their armpits. When I discovered that schools like UBC do not have such restrictive dress codes, I was further confused. I am not the only one: most SFU students I spoke to also had negative views on the dress code.

On top of that, many students claim that the dress code is not uniformly upheld, and that staff members seem to have discretion when it comes to who gets dress coded. This could potentially leave room for unfair discrimination against certain students.

If sweating and bacteria is the issue, the SFU Fitness Center should enforce a stricter clean-up policy. Students should be openly informed of the hazards and be encouraged to clean the equipment and mats before and after use. If every student does so, they look out for their own health and learn to be more diligent, creating a safer and healthier environment.

Instead, the SFU Fitness Center simply tells students they can’t wear certain clothes with no explanation. Honestly, the current dress code seems ineffective and overly restrictive. It should either be drastically changed — by making it clear why the rules are in place, or by enforcing one similar to UBC’s — or gotten rid of completely.