When sophomore Isabella Rizzo was asked to leave Bell Center for violating the dress code, she was shocked.
“I was wearing this outfit I had worn in my workout class in the Bell Center before, and other gyms back at home, too,” Rizzo said. “It was like this half tank top, built-in sports bra outfit with leggings. I didn’t think I needed to put on a shirt or anything because it was also really covering anyway.”
Rizzo went to workout with her roommate on the evening of Sept. 5. She was asked to leave by a student fitness center employee on her way up to the cardio area.
“The rule states you can’t show your midriff,” Rizzo said. “It wasn’t on the outside of the gym, but inside the gym it does say that that’s the rule. I was asked to leave unless I had a shirt to cover up, so I [left]. I had asked what the reason behind that rule was, and the employee was a student employee, so she didn’t know or necessarily agree with the rule, but she had to enforce it. She thinks the reason she was told is some kind of safety reason, but it was just kind of ridiculous to me. What is my midriff harming?”
Sophomore Avery Tuggle was the student employee who informed Rizzo that she was violating the dress code. Tuggle believes that the dress code in the Bell Center is fair and has been well thought out.
“The dress code has been decided with student’s safety in mind as well as for the best preservation of the facility that we are so lucky to have available to us,” Tuggle wrote in an email. “This semester so far, I’ve asked only a few individuals to abide dress code. For the most part, everyone does well with the dress code.”
After being asked to leave, Rizzo and her roommate decided to go for a run outside instead of working out in the Bell Center.
“Even though it’s totally safe here, if you’re arguing that my midriff is going to harm people or myself somehow, I think it’s more dangerous running around outside than in a gym,” Rizzo said. “People should be able to wear whatever makes them comfortable when they work out. I don’t see how that could be a safety issue whatsoever.”
Seth Asbury, associate director of athletics for facilities and event management, explained that fitness center policies are in place to ensure the safety of all users and to mitigate risk factors.
“We don’t want people to get hurt,” Asbury wrote in an email. “All users in the fitness center are asked to wear shirts to prevent direct skin contact (your midsection/back) with the equipment. Wearing a shirt is the easiest way to prevent potentially contracting a communicable skin disease.”
On Sept. 11, Asbury met with the university risk manager, head athletic trainer and university insurance risk accessor to discuss fitness center policies.
“Our policies do follow best practices, and they are enacted to help prevent injury and illness,” Asbury wrote. “Communicable diseases like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) do spread in fitness centers. That’s why we ask everyone to wipe down the machines with disinfectant wipes. In the interest of preventing injury and illness while promoting health and well being, the rules of the fitness center were created. Everyone is expected to wear a shirt while working out in the fitness center, including males.”
Following the incident, Rizzo reached out to the administration and received a response from Asbury, who gave her the same reasons for the policy.