In a step that some students perceive as supporting a sexist and irrational policy, the Boise State Recreation Center has posted new signs detailing the “rules of the playground,” which outline a specific dress code. The dress code, which has been in place since 2002, prohibits the exposure of torsos, midriffs and backs, and specifically bans short shorts, sideless t-shirts and street clothes.
According to Luke Jones, director of campus recreation, the dress code has nothing to do with modesty, and everything to do with cleanliness.
“Put simply, our dress code has been in place since the building opened in 2002 and is meant to help reduce the spread of bacteria, germs and keep people healthy. We also make a point to have patrons wipe down and clean equipment when they are done,” Jones wrote in an email.
Though the dress code has been around since the Rec’s start, more students are noticing it due to the prominent new signs that provide in-depth descriptions of what is and isn’t allowed.
“We did update our signage lately to help people better understand our dress code,” Jones wrote. “From the students we hear from in our surveys and in person, they like having a clean and safe place to work out in.”
Some students, however, take issue with the dress code and its purpose, and don’t believe it has much of an impact on cleanliness. Chloe Liemandt, a junior health science major, falls under this umbrella.
“I have heard that the Rec implemented the dress code to minimize the spread of bacteria on mats and other equipment. Although I’m sure this holds some truth, I find it hard to believe that having an open back or midriff spreads more bacteria on a mat than the shoes on people’s feet,” Liemandt wrote. “I also find it hard to believe that if my sports bra is showing, bacteria is spreading; I just don’t see the correlation. If bacteria and germs are a problem, I feel that we should be looking at the Rec to sanitize better or more, not them looking at us.”
Freshman materials science major Edgar Fisher, whose last name was changed to protect his anonymity, also questions the validity of the cleanliness claim.
“They give an argument that it has to do with the cleaning of the equipment. But if the cleaning of equipment was a concern, then why do they provide wipes and have signs everywhere saying you should clean the equipment after you use it?” Fisher said. “There could be a relation, but they’re not intrinsically related, and if you want to enforce cleanliness, there are other ways of doing it other than a dress code.”
Further, according to Liemandt, whether advertently or not, the dress code inherently favors male Rec-goers over females.
“I feel it’s unfair because women not only are sexualized by this, but the majority of women’s workout clothes, shirts especially, are made tight with cut-outs that expose sports bras,” Liemandt wrote. “I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to go buy a whole new workout wardrobe because my shirts expose my back too much. I’m in college; I can’t afford that.”
Both Liemandt and Chloe Kaagan, sophomore supply chain management major, feel it is directed more towards females than males. Both claim to have seen Rec employees warn females, and neither have witnessed Rec employees warning males. According to Kaagan, some students have switched gyms, opting for off-campus gyms over the Rec.
Women are not the only ones questioning the equity of the dress code. Fisher, too, finds it a chauvinistic and anachronistic policy put in place to keep women modest.
“For me, it is imposing a way of acting and is kind of meant for women, I think. Even if it’s not only meant for women, it’s invasive,” Fisher said.
Jones, however, stands by the assertion that the policy is, in fact, an attempt at a cleaner Rec.
“Our dress code is not about modesty, a very subjective term anyway,” Jones wrote.
Beyond that, students are bothered by the implementation of a dress code on the campus of a public university. Though the rest of Boise State’s campus does not require certain dress, according to Boise State’s human resource services web page, different departments have the authority to implement dress codes as they see fit.
“Boise State University does not have a standardized dress code for the entire university,” the web page stated. “In general the University’s culture is that of ‘business casual,’ which means clothes that are professional in appearance and ironed and unstained; however, each department is free to determine the nature of the clothing it will allow in the workplace.”
Despite this support from the University, Fisher still finds it problematic.
“If apparently you cannot even wear what you like within campus, then we are going in a path that oppresses, restrains and takes freedoms away from people,” Fisher said.