St. Thomas University has released its new policy on Rules and Etiquette for the J.B. O’Keefe Fitness Centre, two months after facing backlash when a student was told her crop top was distracting by an employee.
On Nov. 22, 2018, fourth-year student Mackenzie Parsons was told by a male employee the outfit she was wearing was distracting. She was wearing a black St. Thomas University cropped top which exposed an inch of skin above her belly button. The employee warned her that crop tops would be banned beginning in January 2019.
But that’s not the case.
The one-page Rules and Etiquette Policy released Jan. 18 reads, “Clothing must be clean and appropriate to a fitness and recreation environment. Suitable exercise attire include shorts, leggings, track pants, sweatshirts, casual pants, t-shirts, tank tops, crop tops, and sports bras. Clothing must also be free of attachments (ie., belts, studs, rivets, zippers, velcro, buckles and snaps) that might damage equipment or cause injury.”
A link to the new policy was sent to students via email.
Parsons said she’s satisfied with the new policy.
“I got what I wanted out of it. And I think, a little bit more because you can also wear sports bras and sports bras are considered activewear,” Parsons said.
After receiving an apology from the university and director of athletics Mike Eagles, Parsons felt welcomed back to the gym.
“I’m really happy going back there. I was kind of nervous at first but when I went in, it was fine. Everyone was helpful and I haven’t gotten talked to since,” she said.
Ayla Poitras, a fifth-year Bachelor of Education student, said she was “dumbfounded” when she heard what happened to Parsons in November. She said she’s proud of the university’s decision to allow crop tops at the gym.
“We will have to see in a couple months if they actually have their employees follow their new policies,” Poitras said.
Jeffrey Carleton, spokesperson for STU, said the university will rely on “people’s good sense and good judgement” to enforce the policy.
“We’re going to bring good sense and judgment to the situation as well. If there is an issue, it will be dealt with by the Director of Athletics, and that’s communication and administering the policy and if there’s any questions on interpretation, that’ll be the vice-president finance and administration, but it is not an issue that we’re going to be aggressive on or proactive,” Carleton said.
“We’re going to make sure we don’t put the student staff in a position where this can become an issue again, and we feel we feel that the definitions of suitable attire is broad enough that it shouldn’t be an issue in the future.”
When asked about why sweat dripping onto the machines was initially cited as a reason why Parsons couldn’t wear her crop top at the gym, Carleton said, “because that’s what [the] Athletics [Department] thought at the time.”
Carleton said they looked at policies of other local gyms and universities in the region while working on the new policy.
“We took the experience that we had from last late fall and we drafted a policy and and we circulated it in athletics with the director and among the senior leadership team,” he said.
The university also ran the policy by the Students’ Union and the St. Thomas University Student Athletic Council.
STUSU vice-president student life Wasiimah Joomun said she’s pleased with the updated policy.
“On behalf of the STUSU, I feel that the new policy does a good job at addressing the issues that were raised last fall in regards to the dress code,” Joomun wrote in an email.
“Students now feel more comfortable going to the gym knowing that they are not restricted on what they can wear to work out.”
With files from Cassidy Chisholm