Skip to main content

Communication error at the Fitness Center sparks conversation on exercise and modesty

An illustration of BYUH's Fitness Center with a sign that reads "New Policy."

Flyers were posted outside the BYU–Hawaii's Fitness Center on Feb. 24 stating leggings were no longer able to be worn at the Fitness Center. But within seven hours, the posters were taken down, and students were told to disregard the ban.

While the Fitness Center is now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says the BYUH website, some students said they questioned why there was confusion over the dressing rules at the Fitness Center and what qualifies as modest fitness wear.

Professor in the Faculty of Sciences David Porter said he oversees the Fitness Center and clarified the leggings mishap was a result of miscommunication.

“[The 7-hour leggings ban] was a mistake. It was based on inaccurate information–either someone failed to update the current policy or there was some old information online. When we were made aware of what was posted online we immediately made the decision to support, what we believed to be, the administration's policy.

“We were reasonably certain that if a change of that significance was going to be made that we would have been notified, in advance. However, we immediately chose to say, ‘If that’s the policy, then we are going to follow it.’ We made the change for entrance into the Fitness Center and, during the next seven hours, we sought for clarification.”

According to Porter, Dean of Students Melba Latu was contacted and she indicated that the policy had not changed and that she would have the website updated with the current policy.

Porter noted, “It was my decision to make the short-term change. As we say in sports, it was a 'good-faith' error. All workers, administrators and leaders should be 'held harmless.' I made the call. If anyone was inconvenienced, anxious or stressed to any degree, I apologize.”

Students expressed their confusion and feelings of disagreement regarding the decision, while others voiced understanding why leggings may be banned.

Kelsea Smith, a freshman from Nevada studying elementary education, said she was put at ease when the new policy was taken down. “I felt like the [Fitness Center] banned my entire workout wardrobe when they banned the leggings. I thought I would have to buy new clothes, and it made me very upset.”

Smith expressed although she agreed with leggings being allowed in the Fitness Center, she was still confused about why the rules changed in the first place. “I just feel like if they say they are going to make new rules, they should keep their word. It is just confusing where the authority is coming from when rules change all the time.”

Regarding opposition to leggings, Brooklyn Jackson, a freshman from Washington studying biology, said, “People might not want leggings because they might argue they are inappropriate for how form-fitting they are. [People may] think [leggings] don’t follow the modesty standards and think basketball shorts might be a better fit.”

Gym shorts petition

Students argued the dress policy can improve to meet standard levels of comfort and support the quality of exercise in the Fitness Center. Lina Legorreta, a sophomore from Jordan studying information systems, started a petition to allow shorts in the Fitness Center.

Legorreta sent an email to Vice President for Student Development and Services Debbie Hippolite-Wright when she heard leggings were no longer being permitted, something Legorreta said should be the bare minimum when it comes to gym wear.

“I love working out and staying active. I think women should be able to wear running shorts to the gym that are above the knee. Although we attend a Church school with higher standards, I don’t believe that wearing running shorts that are breathable and show muscle definition would take away from that.

“I believe they would enhance women’s workouts as we are able to focus on muscle groups we can see in the mirror. Studies have shown that form-fitting clothes and muscle exposure motivate individuals to set bigger goals. There is a time and place to wear certain clothes, and while I don’t believe running shorts are appropriate in the classroom, or [walking around] on campus, they should be allowed in the Fitness Center,” Legorreta shared she wrote in the email to Hippolite-Wright.

Legorreta said she considered Hippolite-Wright forwarding her letter to Latu as a hopeful act, which inspired her to start a petition to spread awareness.

She posted the petition on Facebook and attracted signatures in the Aloha Center. She said 100 women and 23 men signed the petition within two hours.

Legorreta said she wants to optimize levels of performance and empower women by having shorts in the Fitness Center. “We are at the gym to work out and to focus on one thing. We are sacrificing comfort and fitness levels. We are not doing anything bad. We just want to be comfortable.”

She said she was working closely with the Office of Honor regarding her petition. “I love this school so much, and this Church means so much to me. What you wear [modestly] at the Fitness Center won’t take away how much you feel the Spirit or how close to Heavenly Father you are.”