Encouraging recreation opportunities for everyone on campus

Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre

Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre

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.



  • Mikaela said...

    I feel as a person who is female and identifies as female. If we are trying to achieve a safe and equal space for all people who use the facilities. You should offer times specifically for people who identify as male. Feminism is about equal rights, feeling safe and heard, but most importantly EQUAL. You can’t offer for one group of people and not the others. It’s just not fair.

  • Malcolm Bird said...

    How many problematic incidents have been reported regarding behavior in the gym? If there has been problems, has anybody been punished? Why are we singling out “male” students for collective punishment for a problem that may or may not exist? Simply because people feel “uncomfortable” they are going to ban all males from the gym? Might there be other reasons why men go the the gym in higher proportions than women? Why are only males being targeted for punishment? How are you going to enforce these rules? Are you going to check everyone at the door and make them declare their sexual orientation and gender identity? I can see that the decision has already been made, why am I wasting my time on this matter?

  • Sarah said...

    This is just stupid. Forgoing reason for a safe space and bigotry masked as fairness and a desire for equality. This is not equality, it’s not respect, it’s not going to grow a culture of safety. People (not just men) who use the facility are going to harbour resentment towards the faculty about this.

    Will the gym fees that are automatically included in tuition be deducted from men’s bills to represent the time that they may not use the gym? How will the hours during which men cannot use the gym be decided? Obviously it would be entirely unfair to implement this program during peak hours. Most students, including men, likely wouldn’t have time to attend the gym at 1PM on a weekday because the special women-and-non-binary-only hour is going on.

  • Dexter said...

    I assume men will get a discount on what they pay for the gym since they are denying them service based on their gender identity. This is a step backwards.

  • Connor said...

    “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”

    What a sad world we live in when the answer to discrimination is combat it with further discrimination.

    Shame on UWinnipeg for giving into such selfish demands and basically demonizing all males.

  • Nathan Wiens said...

    This is sexist and a step in the wrong direction. If anything, completely remove all aspects of gender identity from gyms. If people feel unsafe, that’s just the reality. The second you only allow non-males in it becomes bigotry and sexism. What about a transsexual post-op male? Are they now not allowed in? Furthermore, how do you stop males from entering though identifying as non-binary? If you tell them they are not, then you have a human rights violation and bad PR on your hands if they make a case of it. Overall, terrible decision from the University of Winnipeg. Shortsighted, bigoted, sexist, and genderphobic that causes more problems than it does fix them.

  • Seamus said...

    This is asinine, so in order to not discriminate against one gender who feels “unsafe” you’re going to discriminate against the other gender. What the heck is wrong with our society, seriously?

    As a male who has never done anything to discriminate or make anyone feel uncomfortable I am being punished and told that I am allowed to use the gym but only during these hours. So if my schedule doesn’t match up with the times, I am basically being told sorry you are S.O.L.

    How about instead of limiting the hours you have staff members that walk around and make sure nothing harassing is going on, better yet have students volunteer for this as part of curriculum for some class.

    Way to take society backwards, I guess we are heading back to the 50’s except with the rolls reversed. Males are becoming the hindered gender now. What is next we loose our right to vote because other genders feel unsafe with who we might vote for?

  • Danielle Stacey said...

    This is ridiculous. Why not ban people for creating an unsafe environment if that’s the issue instead of making it an issue for an entire gender?

    We’re all forced to pay the gym membership, we all have a right to use it when we want to.

  • Deb said...

    Males are being discriminated against. As for equal treatment, this is a step backwards. For those that are “uncomfortable” perhaps they need some advice or strategy to deal with their issues. Noted, all gym participants should abide by the rules of conduct (agreed to when the gym membership document is signed), and if someone does not, they should be reprimanded.

    I really hope the U of W does NOT implement this discriminatory policy!! Further, this policy would go against the U of W’s mission statement.

  • Drew said...

    This is a step backwards… discomfort alone should not cause the blanket discrimination against a entire group of people who did nothing wrong.

    If males said having females made them uncomfortable and got special “men only” hours that would be looked at as a step backwards. If straight people said having “the gays” around made them uneasy and got them banned for certain hours that would be seen as a huge point of discrimination.

    In order to get rid of the unwarranted stigmas things have to become normalized. You can’t normalize things when you segregate.

    People are people, there are good ones and bad ones. The more that gets done to group, label and segregate the more lines get drawn in the sand and the bigger the problem gets. Discrimination based on race, sex or sexual orientation is wrong, and that includes if it is against straight males.

  • Fred said...

    If you look at the results, there seems to be some motive behind how the words “unsafe” and “uncomfortable” are used. The UWSA published the aforementioned survey results which supposedly triggered this initiative, which are available here.


    IN this survey it is impossible to select that you are uncomfortable in the environment without also saying that you feel unsafe. The one question is directly phrased as “Is there anything preventing you from feeling more safe and comfortable using the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre?”

    Now, there are a tonne of things that make me uncomfortable in the gym. People too sweaty on a piece of equipment I want to use? I’m uncomfortable. Music loud/offensive? Uncomfortable. Bill Wedlake fitness center grossly undersized for the amount of people who use it? Yes, that makes me uncomfortable. The last may even make me feel unsafe. But nowhere in this survey does it ask how often a male or presumably binary identifying person has made you feel uncomfortable. There’s not even a choice you can choose to say that you don’t think it’s a good idea to implement these gender specific hours. Question 15 asks “how often do you think women and non-binary people only gym times should be offered?” and lists the responses 1-2x a week, 3-4x, and 5x+. Nowhere can you select that you don’t agree with this initiative.

    Regardless on whether or not this is a good initiative, you have to approach this survey from a statistical approach. It’s inherently flawed, and you could literally randomize the results and still get a response that supports this initiative. How then, can you base this as definitive proof that you have an issue by itself? Why are we not seeing statistics based around something literal, such as complaints of sexual harassment, issues in the gym, etc.

    I’m all for progressive ideas, but the cure to bigotry is not segregation. I fail to see how this is a solution. Why is there not a greater push for education about these oppressed groups? The UofW mandated an indigenous studies requirement to combat bigotry against indigenous peoples of Canada, to better educate those who are ignorant. Yet here we have the solution being proposed as segregation? I fail to see how that is the solution.

  • Sillybilly said...

    Alright then, if 20-30% of gym hours js devoted to segregation time… then i want 20-30% of my membership feel back.

    Segregation is never the awnser.we should be focusing on banning offenders and promoting personal postive body image…

    Next thing you know. Well be separating classes and workplaces…

  • Dan said...

    This comment thread is a veritable garden of sexist and misogynistic hallmarks – reverse sexism, victim blaming, straw men, “not-all-men” – it’s all here. Research the historical context of sexism folks and see how many instances apply to men. FYI – reverse sexism isn’t a “thing”; we still live in a patriarchy. Creating a safe space for women to use the gym at U of W is not a societal tragedy, it’s not the coming of the apocalypse. It’s one step on a long road that will inevitably involve men relinquishing some of the power our patriarchal society has awarded them for the sake of women achieving equality. Sorry about your gym passes – I think the centuries of oppression, abuse, victimization, torture, discrimination, etc. etc. mean we can call it even.

  • A.J. said...

    This is a very stupid and insensitive policy in my opinion. I don’t think it’s “sexist” or “oppressive” as some people are claiming, but now half the members of the gym will be unable to access the gym at specific times. It’s already incredibly hard for students, regardless of gender, to find the time to go to the gym. Why make it that much harder?