WREC Continues Tradition of Inclusion

By: Anne Stanley

A 12-by-15-foot banner with “Show Respect, Give Dignity.” emblazoned across the top states California State University, Chico’s Wildcat Recreation Center’s message and expectation of inclusivity. Since the banner was erected in fall 2013, the WREC has continued its efforts to embrace diversity and make everyone who walks in the door feel comfortable.

Kendall Ross and Brooke Magnotta WREC Programs Supervisor Brooke Magnotta and Recreational Sports Program Coordinator Kendall Ross have worked hard to implement new inclusive policies. Photo by Oscar Aquino.

In its most recent effort, the WREC has implemented a number of policies designed to facilitate and encourage transgender individuals to participate in the numerous activities, clubs, and teams the facility offers.

The WREC officially consists of two separate entities: Chico State Recreational Sports, which includes both intramural and competitive sports clubs, and the WREC center, which is run through the Associated Students and includes both group and individual fitness programs.

What’s New?
Rec Sports rolled out its transgender policy in the beginning of the fall 2014 semester after a year of development. The new policy includes sections on:

  • Participation in sex-separated sports teams
  • Participation in mixed-gender sports activities
  • Locker rooms
  • Travel accommodations
  • Names and pronouns
  • Dress codes and uniforms
  • Education

Kendall Ross, program coordinator for Rec Sports, said that although they haven’t had many issues regarding transgender participation, she’s happy that they now have a policy in place if issues were to arise.

“I’m trying to get ahead of the game, as opposed to playing catch-up,” said Ross. “I didn’t want it to take six weeks before I could get back to a student who wasn’t sure what team they should be participating on.”

The policy also addresses issues that might come up before a student even joins a team. Previously, students who wanted to join sports clubs only had two gender options, male or female, to choose from when filling out the application paperwork. Rec Sports now offers five gender options including male, female, transgender, intersex, and prefer not to identify.

The WREC also made changes to its facility to make it more welcoming for transgender patrons. Signage has been added throughout the building identifying where single-use locker rooms, formerly known as family rooms, are available. Policies regarding appropriate swim attire have been modified to accommodate any individual’s comfort level, regardless of gender identity.

Additionally, the WREC has made changes to how it trains staff. Trainers are brought into the facility from Safe Zone, a program aimed at recruiting and educating LGBT allies, to provide staff training and inclusive educational lectures throughout each semester. At the WREC there is an emphasis on making patrons comfortable, which includes changing the language used in the facility.

“We don’t talk about calorie burning. We don’t talk about swimsuit bodies or bikini bodies,” said WREC Programs Supervisor Brooke Magnotta. “Instead, we talk about powerful exercises and doing it to feel good.”

What’s to Come?
The new policy changes are not the end of the road for the WREC. Both Ross and Magnotta agree that they are going to continue to work on perfecting the current policies as well as continue to pay attention to potential future changes.

“By no means do we want to implement something that is not needed or force something onto our student body that is not something relevant to them,” said Ross. “Of course we will try to be as ahead of the game as possible, but in four years I don’t know what that’s going to look like.”

Still, the WREC is not one to back down from a challenge. Working for an organization that values diversity and inclusion as much as strength and comradery, Ross and Magnotta will continue to keep their fingers on the pulse of the student body to make sure students are happy with their fitness experience.

"Change is an amazing thing,” said Magnotta. “The more advanced we become as a society, and the more educated as a campus and open to what our students need, the more inclusive we become ourselves.”

Campus Pride Index
The new transgender policy at the WREC is just one of several policies on campus that work to make Chico State an LGBTQ-friendly campus. The Campus Pride Index, a national online assessment tool, allows universities to determine how well they are addressing LGBTQ issues on campus. The overall score for Chico State is three out of five stars, an average score with room for improvement, but its LGBTQ Policy Inclusion rating is four out of five stars. Although there are still areas needing further development, the University continues to be a place where everyone is welcome.