The University of Winnipeg, in cooperation and partnership with the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, is consulting with stakeholders to enhance recreation and wellness experiences on campus. As part of this process, UWinnipeg will begin a pilot project in September 2017 offering specific gym time to female and non-binary students. The pilot will run through the fall of 2017. It is one of several new initiatives underway to promote a diverse and inclusive culture of respect within all recreation services and facilities on UWinnipeg’s campus and to offer more wellness opportunities to students who may be underutilizing programs.
Responding to concerns that some students do not feel welcome or safe at campus gyms, a number of universities across Canada have implemented specified hours and/or recreation programming for female students (Ryerson, Simon Fraser, Laurier, University of Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa). In fall 2016, UWSA initiated a student survey which resulted in approximately 700 responses. There was a full range of commentary but most striking was a) 50 % of female respondents indicated discomfort in using the fitness centre and b) many students feel the fitness space is too small and crowded.
The current student population is approximately 9,300 of which two thirds, 6,500 is full time. Students holding gym memberships total 2,257 with an even split between male and female students (1103 and 1154 respectively.) During a busy period in Feb 2016, approximately 60% of students using the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre were male and 40% female.
In fall 2016, UWinnipeg’s Director, Recreation Facilities and Services, Dean Melvie, formed a committee to explore optimal use of recreation spaces and barriers to access. The committee of ten meets periodically and includes six student representatives. As a result of the committees’ insights a number of new initiatives are currently underway including:
a) A pilot project is in development to create specific gym hours (and programming) for female and non-binary students to run from Sept to Dec 2017. An evaluation of the pilot and lessons learned/recommendations will be shared with UWSA and the campus community.
b) As part of the consultation, Melvie is circulating a general customer satisfaction survey to all gym members (Jan 3 to Feb 3, 2017) to gather ideas and feedback.
c) A new Fitness Studio (formerly Mondetta retail store, second floor Duckworth) is now operational with programming for female students, with further programming in development.
d) Melvie is examining space allocation within all recreation facilities on campus to determine if crowding during peak hours within Bill Wedlake can be reduced.
e) Development of a Code of Conduct for all recreation participants is almost completed (Spring 2017) and will be mandatory for everyone using UWinnipeg recreation facilities.
f) UWinnipeg’s comprehensive Sexual Misconduct Protocol expressly prohibits all forms of sexual harassment on campus and provides training to students and staff. Front-line staff in recreation facilities will be trained.
g) Posters in plain language prohibiting sexual harassment will be posted in recreation facilities (in development Spring 2017). We strive to ensure that all users feel represented in the posters and promotion materials of Recreation Services.
The University of Winnipeg is committed to an ongoing, open and responsive partnership with students to create a culture of safety and respect for everyone.