Recreation center receives backlash from students over dress code policies, employees react

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Several students at Montclair State University have expressed dissatisfaction with the recreation center’s strict dress code enforcement. These students said they were constantly reprimanded by staff members for small-scale violations of the dress code. They are asked to either leave or put on a different shirt provided by the leisure centre.

Brianna Sheak, a freshman elementary school student and member of the Montclair State Dance Team, described her recent experience at the Rec Center.

“I wore a skin-tight white racerback tank top with a built-in bra [to practice]”, Sheak said. “It covered my entire stomach and had ‘MSDT’ in red letters on the front, considering it was made by the team leaders and was meant to be worn in the multipurpose studios. The rest of the team also own these tops and have worn them for training before without issue. But I was the one who got in trouble for wearing it.

Recreation Center. Lauren Bentivegna | The Montclairon” width=”1194″ height=”1340″ data-uniq-id=”f4827″ srcset=”https://21ym1q1oz7l4ipi243grtd61-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/unnamed-1.png 1194w, https://21ym1q1oz7l4ipi243grtd61-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/unnamed-1-475×533.png 475w, https://21ym1q1oz7l4ipi243grtd61-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/unnamed-1-912×1024.png 912w, https://21ym1q1oz7l4ipi243grtd61-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/unnamed-1-768×862.png 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 1194px) 100vw, 1194px”/>

Brianna Sheak stands in front of a sign at the Recreation Center.
Lauren Bentivegna | The Montclairon

Sheak said a recreation center worker told her she couldn’t wear the top and wasn’t allowed past the main entrance.

“I feel like it’s not just sexist, it’s also a body type issue,” Sheak said. “I have a bigger chest, so maybe I got attached to them more compared to women with less curves. There’s a double standard here.

Several other students have said they have had similar experiences since the start of the school year and are now frustrated.

A popular Instagram account that started last April and named @montclairstatelit posted anonymous confessions and complaints from students about the university. Harleigh Macbeth, a young Spaniard and PR specialist, came across a post on the account that highlighted this issue and commented.

Comments under the Instagram post of @montclairstatelit.  Lauren Bentivegna |  The Montclairon

Comments under the Instagram post of @montclairstatelit.
Lauren Bentivegna | The Montclairon

“My friend even had a dress code,” Macbeth said. “We are adults. I don’t even think it’s to reduce skin diseases, [you’re meant to clean equipment you use but instead, it’s] to prevent people from being over-sexualized.

Some upset students see the situation from a different perspective. Mari Zuniga, a communications and media arts major, also came across the Instagram post.

“Not to defend the employees, but I heard their bosses were strict as hell and the staff had to follow all the rules or they could be fired for making the slightest mistake,” Zuniga said.

Caleb Arruda, a freshman psychology student who works for the Rec Center, responded to Zuniga.

“Yes, I work in the [Rec Center and] we have no choice in the matter,” Arruda said. “We have to call it or fix it, otherwise we can get in trouble. Believe me, I don’t want to walk around controlling people on what to wear.

After reading the post and comments about the issue last semester, David Bryngil, associate director of campus recreation, and Jared Utterback, assistant director of fitness, responded.

“I can say in terms of understanding that this policy is exclusively about skin health,” Bryngil said.

They confirmed that there was never a lawsuit or initial problem to begin enforcement of the dress code.

“We hear about other issues at other college recreation centers, but there has never been a reported skin disease in [ours]“said Utterback. “We base our decisions on regional feedback and universally accepted guidelines.”

Both employees emphasized the recreation center’s priority of keeping things clean, safe and above and beyond for the campus community. They said they are aware of how much of the student money goes to the center and want it to remain intact and open for all students to use and benefit from.

“I was in another institution for 28 years before I came here and there were issues there,” Bryngil said. “It’s not funny [to deal with] and can become very serious.

Utterback added that this policy is not new.

“We started this campaign, ‘protect your skin at the gym’, in 2015-2016,” Utterback said. “We really take pride in keeping our facilities clean.”

Bryngil and Utterback wanted every student to know that they are always welcome to discuss their complaints directly with them.

“It doesn’t necessarily help us do our job if students only air their grievances on the internet,” Bryngil said. “Our doors are always open. Come talk to us.

Bryngil said he plans to speak about the complaints at future staff meetings to ensure the rule remains consistent throughout each shift and that no customer feels isolated when advised to wear different clothes.

“I totally see where a student would feel isolated on a day when the staff aren’t as consistent with the policy,” Bryngil said.

Utterback shared similar sentiments.

“We want our students to feel comfortable,” Utterback said.

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