Several students at Montclair State University said they are upset about the strict enforcement of the Recreation Center’s dress code. These students said they are constantly being reprimanded by the staff members about small-scale dress code violations. They are either asked to leave or to put on a different shirt provided by the Rec Center.
Brianna Sheak, a freshman elementary education major and member of the Montclair State Dance Team, described her recent experience at the Rec Center.
“I wore a tight-fitted, white racerback tank top with built-in bra support [to practice],” Sheak said. “It covered my entire stomach and had ‘MSDT’ in red lettering on the front of it, considering it was made by the team’s leaders and was meant to be worn in the multipurpose studios. The rest of the team owns these tops as well and has worn them to practice before without a problem. But, I was the one to get in trouble for wearing it.”
Sheak said an employee at the Rec Center told her that she cannot wear the top and was not allowed past the front entrance.
“I feel like this is not just sexist, but a body type issue as well,” Sheak said. “I am bigger chested so I may have stuck out to them more in comparison to women with less curves. There’s a double standard here.”
Multiple other students said they have faced similar experiences since the start of the school year and are now frustrated.
A popular Instagram account that emerged last April named @montclairstatelit has been posting anonymous confessions and complaints by students about the university. Harleigh Macbeth, a junior Spanish and public relations major, came across a post on the account that highlighted this issue and commented.
“My guy friend even got dress coded,” Macbeth said. “We are grown. I don’t even think it’s for the sake of keeping skin diseases down, [you’re meant to clean equipment you use but instead, it’s] to prevent people being over-sexualized.”
Some upset students understand the situation from a different perspective. Mari Zuniga, a senior communication and media arts major, also came across the Instagram post.
“Not to defend the employees, but I heard their bosses are strict as hell and the staff have to follow all the rules because they could get fired for doing the smallest thing wrong,” Zuniga said.
Caleb Arruda, a freshman psychology major who works for the Rec Center, replied to Zuniga.
“Yeah I work in the [Rec Center and] we have no choice in the matter,” Arruda said. “We have to call it out or address it, or we can get in trouble. Trust me, I don’t want to be going around policing people on what to wear.”
After reading the post and comments regarding 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 my understanding that this policy is driven by skin health exclusively,” Bryngil said.
They confirmed there was never a lawsuit or initial issue to begin the enforcement of the dress code.
“We hear of other issues going on in other university recreation centers, but there was never a skin disease reported within [ours],” Utterback said. “We base our decisions on regional remarks and universally accepted guidelines.”
Both employees emphasized the Rec Center’s priority to keep things clean, safe and beyond the standard for the campus community. They said they are aware of how much of the students’ money goes into the center and they want it to stay pristine and open for all students to use and enjoy.
“I was at another institution for 28 years before coming here and there were issues there,” Bryngil said. “It is not fun [to deal with] and can become very serious.”
Utterback added that this policy isn’t new.
“We started this campaign, ‘protect your skin at the gym,’ in 2015-2016,” Utterback said. “We really pride ourselves in keeping our facilities clean.”
Bryngil and Utterback wanted every student to know they are always welcome to discuss their complaints with them directly.
“It doesn’t necessarily help us do our job if the students only air their grievances over the internet,” Bryngil said. “Our doors are always open. Come talk to us.”
Bryngil said he is planning to talk about the complaints at the upcoming staff meetings to make sure the rule stays invariable throughout each shift, and that no patron feels singled out when advised to wear different clothing.
“I totally see where a student would feel singled out on a day where staff are not being as consistent with the policy,” Bryngil said.
Utterback shared similar sentiments.
“We want our students to feel comfortable,” Utterback said.