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Behind the Scenes

University Justifies Dress Code at Student Rec Center

Stories about dress code policies in fitness clubs have popped up from time to time this year—most of them involving Planet Fitness.

We had the anti-abortion T-shirt guy in Florida, the tank top lady in California, the teenager in Michigan and the pregnant lady in South Carolina. In all cases, other members took offense to what those members were wearing in those Planet Fitness clubs.

Another dress code policy story hit the Internet last month, but this time it involved a university rec center. And the policy put in place had more to do with safety than vanity.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee implemented its new dress code in September for T-shirts worn at the Klotsche Center and Pavilion. According to UW-Milwaukee:

This dress code is enforced to create a welcoming and inclusive environment, to prevent disease transmission and to prolong the quality and life of the equipment. Using clothing as a barrier between an individual and fitness equipment reduces the chances of acquiring an illness or infection (such as MRSA), and also protects the equipment from degradation from sweat and body oil.

The university began phasing in the policy over the summer as it tried to prevent students from wearing cutout shirts with sides exposed, Steven Mohar, director of recreation at UW-Milwaukee, tells Club Industry. Students wearing those types of shirts would build up a lot of sweat on the equipment, Mohar adds.

"It turns out that there was too much gray when we started talking about how much skin could be exposed," Mohar says. "So we decided to go with a T-shirt or a sleeved shirt that covers the shoulders, the back and the torso."

A student newspaper article about the new policy was republished on other websites last month. That led to local TV reports about the policy, creating more attention. The reaction has been mixed, Mohar says.

"We had some people who don't like it and some people who think it's fine," Mohar says. "In online forums, there's probably been more negative reaction, but not all of it is from people that use our facility or have the ability to use our facility. We're not a completely public facility. We are a university facility that the students have access to, and we have very limited membership sales, mostly to our faculty and staff."

Mohar adds that other colleges and universities have a similar dress code at their rec centers.

"We're committed to staying where we are," Mohar says. "We believe that it's the right policy. It's for the health and safety of our students and our members. It helps with the longevity of our equipment."

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