UPEI aims to clarify gym dress code after student complaint

The University of P.E.I. wants to make sure staff and students understand its new guidelines concerning the clothing that can be worn while at the gym.

Issues arose after student complained her outfit was flagged as 'inappropriate'

'I was just shocked and taken back honestly. No one ever expects something like that to happen to them,' says Kylee Graham. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

The University of P.E.I. wants to make sure everyone who uses — and works at — its gym understands its new clothing guidelines.

Under the new guidelines, which came into effect in February, everyone who works out at the gym should wear shirts that cover the rib cage and pants or shorts long enough to cover the groin and buttocks.

It also states that clothing should not feature inappropriate language, should be free of excess material or attachments like buckles, and should be clean. The guidelines also call for clean, closed-toe athletic footwear.

The issue came to light after a student complained on social media of being wrongfully flagged for her outfit earlier this week.

'I would like to see a policy change that allows women to feel comfortable in the gym,' says Graham. (Kylee Graham)

Kylee Graham posted a photo on Facebook of what she wore to the gym, along with a description of what happened. Through Facebook messages, Graham told the CBC that when she arrived at the gym, staff told her her clothing was inappropriate and violated the gym's dress code. She said staff then showed her a binder of photos of clothing that are not allowed in the gym. 

Graham said after she finished her workout, staff at the gym told her they decided her outfit was suitable. 

"I was just shocked and taken back honestly. No one ever expects something like that to happen to them," Graham said.

She said the experience left her angry and frustrated and now, she'd like to see some changes.

"I would like to see a policy change that allows women to feel comfortable in the gym," she said. "We are there to work out and the rules ... are literally against standard workout attire used by women in sports everywhere at all ages."

UPEI apologizes 

Chris Huggan, director of Athletics and Recreation at UPEI said the staff member made a mistake in flagging Graham's outfit. He said the guidelines were put in place to make the gym a more inclusive, comfortable space for everyone who uses it.

"Someone was hurt by this. That's not our intent, it's not our student-staff's intent, they feel really bad. Our sincere apologies to the person who felt this way," Huggan said.

"But I really think the guidelines are, they're very broad, they're not specific and they're very well thought out."

'Someone was hurt by this. That's not our intent, it's not our student-staff's intent, they feel really bad. Our sincere apologies to the person who felt this way,' says Huggan. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Huggan said the university started exploring the guidelines after several gym users raised concerns about the clothing and footwear they saw there. He said the department spent a lot of time researching other fitness facilities to find guidelines that suited UPEI.

"A lot of research and a lot of questioning of various universities and fitness centres across the country were done."

Huggan said until now, the guidelines have been well received and this is the first complaint he's heard of. But in light of what happened, he added, the department will take a closer look at the guidelines and make some changes to the process.

"What we've done in the very short term is look at the process and we say really it's probably unfair for our student-staff at this point to have to be the ones who communicate. So if they can bring it to the attention of our department staff, who — if they're in house — can try to find the right time and place to address their concerns."

Student to meet with UPEI staff

Graham said she still thinks the guidelines are too strict. Other students at UPEI CBC talked to on Friday said the guidelines may be helpful, but might not be necessary. 

"I think that as long as everyone is safe and comfortable, it shouldn't really matter what people wear to the gym," said first-year student Georgie McKenna.

Madeline Killorn, also a first-year student, said while she appreciates guidelines designed to ensure people's safety like wearing closed-toed shoes, she thinks the rules could be more flexible when it comes to clothing.

"I didn't agree with say, shirts that cover the rib cage. If someone wanted to wear like a sports bra to the gym and didn't wear a shirt because maybe it helps them move more," Killorn said.

Graham said she plans to meet with UPEI staff next Tuesday to discuss the incident and recommend some changes she'd like to see.

Huggan said the university could be open to making some changes if they are needed.

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