Fresno State looking at changing gym dress code policy, following sports bra controversy

Fresno State is reviewing its on-campus gym dress code policy after a female student complained earlier this year because staff asked her to “cover up” while working out.

Leila Mori in September told The Bee she was wearing high-waist yoga pants and a sports bra when a male employee approached her with the request. She said only about 2 1/2 inches of her skin were exposed.

After The Bee reported on the incident, Frank R. Lamas, Fresno State vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, emailed Mori and apologized.

Mori met with Lamas last week. Now, Fresno State is looking at possibly overhauling that dress code policy, though the specifics of what the revised policy may look like are still unclear.

“The dress code is going through possible revisions, but possible changes are still undergoing review,” Fresno State spokeswoman Lisa Boyles said in an email. “It would be premature to discuss how the finished guidelines might look before that review and approval process is completed.”

Boyles said student input will be part of the process in developing the dress code guidelines. An expected completion date for the guidelines hasn’t been set.

Talks between student and staff positive

Lamas could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Mori said the discussion they had after the gym incident was positive.

“He was very thoughtful and receptive,” she said. Mori also said Lamas, who has the gym under his authority, relayed that students should not be “policed” on what they wear at the gym. He thought the issue with the policy was something that should be changed or at least be looked at, she said.

Mori believes the university’s current gym policy is oppressive toward women, and a form of body shaming.

After the incident in late August, Mori sent an email to Derek A. Walters, director of the Fresno State’s Rec Sports and Fitness center. He defended the action taken against her, and pointed her to the gym’s guidelines, the email shows.

The gym’s current policy state’s “a shirt covering the torso must be worn at all times at the Fitness Center.”

But Mori said she was not the only student who noticed the double standard when enforcing the rule unequally with male students.

Back in mid-October, Mori also had a meeting with Jamie Pontius-Hogan, director of Title IX and Clery Compliance at Fresno State. Title IX is a federal law that ensures female and male students, as well as employees in educational institutions, are treated equally and fairly.

Mori filed a Title IX complaint against the university.

Walters was present at the October meeting about the Title IX complaint, and he apologized to her, Mori said. Because changes to the policy were also likely, Mori closed her Title IX complaint. “I didn’t feel the need to proceed,” she said.

She would like to see the policy changed so that gym staff cannot dictate what students “can and cannot wear.” She would also like for a gym supervisor, whom she spoke to in person before emailing Walters, to apologize as well.

“It really did shake me,” she said of the August incident.

Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.