February 13, 2004

Ratner dress code covers student body

On entering the weight and cardio rooms at the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, users are now confronted with signs that detail a new workout attire policy banning the use of sleeveless shirts.

The new policy of wearing shirts with sleeves has created a stir among users, many of whom say they have not read the signs but have heard the rule by word of mouth. Some, like fourth-year in the College Katie Craig, were plainly unaware of the policy.

Craig said she was surprised and annoyed when informed by a visitor control attendant (VCA) that her sleeveless top was unacceptable. "This is ridiculous," Craig said. "My tops are so much cooler than regular t-shirts, and it's hot up here. I've never heard of anything like it before."

According to Jen Coleman, assistant athletic director for facilities Management, the policy attempts to minimize skin-to-equipment contact and to capture sweat before it accumulates on equipment. "Basically we are working to create as clean of an environment as possible in our workout areas. The cleanliness of our equipment had been a very common concern at Henry Crown," Coleman said.

Coleman noted that the policy is not limited to Ratner but also applies to the Henry Crown Field House. Users of cardio and weight equipment in the older facility are hard pressed to find any signs noting the appropriate workout attire, however, leading some to believe the policy's emphasis is plainly on the newer facility.

Students have questioned the rule's effectiveness in keeping exercise equipment clean."I think it's pretty ineffectual," said second-year in the College Kevin Newman, a varsity football player. "I don't see how covering a marginally greater area of skin is going to help anything."

Another varsity athlete, second-year Rose Kulczycki, also expressed doubts about the policy's effectiveness. Said Kulczycki, "If you're sweaty, you're sweaty, and it doesn't matter what you wear. It really comes down to cleaning up after yourself."

Others, like first-year anthropology Ph.D. student Gustavo Rivera, thought the policy was representative of a conservative University of Chicago outlook on the human body in a public setting. "Go to the other gyms in the area, Bally's for example. They don't have this kind of a policy. I honestly thought it was a U of C thing," Rivera said, adding that he personally had no problem with the policy. "I'm not really affected."

Coleman did not view Ratner's policy as inconsistent with those of other fitness centers. "Requiring a shirt with sleeves when using fitness/weight areas is not an uncommon policy in the industry," she asserted. "We feel it is just one more step we can take at keeping our equipment clean."

It is not clear how the dress code will be enforced. Currently, fitness supervisors and VCAs at Ratner are instructed to inform patrons exercising without sleeves of the new policy.

Coleman said she has been pleasantly surprised by how many patrons have voluntarily chosen to adhere to the policy and declined to comment more extensively on how the policy would be fully enforced. "There is a consensus among the facilities staff that there are far fewer people wearing sleeveless shirts now than there were two weeks ago," she said.

Users who would like to voice an opinion on the policy to the facilities staff can fill out a suggestion card at the front desk of Ratner.