Rowan University clarified its long-standing verbal policy that required all athletes to wear shirts during practice after a viral article bashed the university for prohibiting female athletes from wearing only sports bras during workouts.
The old policy was created “as a matter of keeping a level of standards throughout its men's and women's programs,” according to the university statement, and applied to both men and women.
In her article for the Odyssey online, a popular college blog, Gina Capone, a Rowan University student, criticized the policy.
“In the world of professional athletics, all female elite runners are permitted to wear racing crop tops. Not only are they non-restricting, but they are a trendy, comfortable, and empowering part of the running culture,” she wrote. “As women, we are constantly reminded that we should be ashamed or embarrassed about our bodies. It's 2018, and yet women are still being objectified with their physical appearance.”
Capone's article was shared widely on social media.
“This is unacceptable, @RowanUniversity. Why would anyone (including my four daughters) ever apply to a college that treats women this way, promoting rape culture and prioritizing men over them?” one user tweeted alongside the article link.
"Wow, this is really putting us back even more and perpetuating rape culture yet again. As a runner and a woman, I am incredibly infuriated by how this all makes sense. Please explain your logic @RowanUniversity," another user said.
Following the criticism, the university said it was clarifying its policy, which it effectively ended.
“The university recognizes that while the verbal policy attempted to set standards, it could be misunderstood and does not accommodate today’s training practices across sports. We recognize this may stir debate within the university community and beyond,” the university's statement read in part. “By clarifying our support of women’s athletics and its student-athletes, Rowan strongly affirms its commitment to ensuring that women are able to train and perform at the highest levels.”
In addition to the brief policy clarification, the university plans to develop a written policy allowing women to wear sports bras without shirts during practices.
“Rowan Athletics will continue to follow National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines for uniforms during competition. In the new formal policy, there will be no restriction of sports bras without shirts as practice apparel,” according to the statement.
Capone’s article also accused the university of forcing female runners to practice at the local high school instead of on the university track so they would not distract the men’s football team. This is false, and the university issued a separate statement on Facebook to address the accusation.
“As is common at many institutions, the policy dictates that teams use our athletic venues one team at a time. The article explained in error that the cross country team was no longer allowed to use the track at the Rowan stadium. The cross country team has a mixed practice schedule where it may do road work one day, followed by trail work on another and then track work on yet another day,” the Facebook statement read. “Preferring not to schedule practice later in the day, the cross country coach has historically made alternate plans for the team to use Glassboro High School’s track, which is directly across the street from Rowan’s stadium.”