UCF RWC: Title IX investigation will not take place
Earlier this month, a student filed a discriminatory Title IX complaint against the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center's string tank top ban. However, UCF's Title IX coordinator Maria Beckman said the investigation will no longer take place.
RWC officials, Beckman and the student who filed the complaint met Tuesday to discuss the gym's alleged gender bias within its apparel guidelines.
Due to privacy rules, Beckman could not disclose the name of the student who filed the complaint.
"We had a good discussion. We developed a plan to make sure the rule is as gender neutral as it could be," said Beckman, director of UCF's EO/AA program.
The Title IX discrimination law, overseen by UCF's Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity program, prohibits regulations that exclude students from campus participation based on their gender or sex. Beckman said the RWC and EO/AA program will combine their efforts so that male students will not feel discriminated against.
Last week, UCF student Austin Medlin started a petition against the ban after he released a video in which he was confronted by RWC staff about his apparel. In the video, Medlin points out that the staff confronts him about his inappropriate tank top, but doesn't say anything to a woman wearing a similar string tank top with her back exposed.
"I'm not trying to push buttons. I'm trying to prove a point. I'm trying to prove a point to you that you guys are targeting me and you're not saying anything to girls," Medlin said in the video.
The petition challenges the rule by stating, "The rule is unreasonable and hinders our freedom of expression. In no way does the rule scientifically prove to be more sanitary nor does it have any other proven benefit."
So far, the petition has gained more than 800 supporters.
According to the policies on RWC's website, "Shirts or tops must fully cover the back, front and sides of the torso." Protocol also states that RWC staff has permission to distinguish apparel as unsafe or inappropriate.
The website states, "The RWC reserves the right to restrict the use of any apparel deemed unsafe or inappropriate. Users may be asked to adjust apparel or risk being asked to leave the facility."
Beckman said the RWC has agreed to clarify its rules regarding dress code and she will be conducting a Title IX training session with the staff.
Prior to the meeting, Scott Mauro, marketing and communication manager at RWC, said the policy is gender neutral.
"Specific to [Medlin's] picture or video, the young lady that was [filmed] in that picture that was shown to me, she was in total compliance of our policy," Mauro said.
The shirt that was allegedly worn by Medlin at the time he recorded his video was not the same shirt worn when he was approached by staff, he added.
Although, Medlin's video stirred controversy over the RWC rules, Beckman said it's important for male students to know that Title IX protects them from discrimination as well.
Gary Cahen, associate director of programs at the RWC, said the UCF fitness center prides itself on being an inclusive and diverse facility.
"We have a diversity statement on our website. It's not just on our website. It lives, it breathes, it is all a part of our training. We have a diversity committee. We have goals to make sure this place is welcoming," Cahen said. "The last thing we want is for any student to feel like they're marginalized and that they may come into this building and it's not welcoming."
Cahen and Mauro said the RWC is always open to student's input regarding specific policies enforced by the gym.
"We battle a very tough stereotype to begin with, so we want to make sure this place is inviting and safe. That is always a tricky balance," Cahen said.
Moving forward, Beckman said she is excited that more students are becoming aware of their rights protected by the Title IX law and she was pleased with RWC's willingness to accommodate students' rights.
"Hopefully, the issue has been restored in an amicable way," she said. "I am hopeful that we will get the best outcome as possible."
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com