Wheaton Students Revamp Athletics Inclusivity Statement

Julianne Morse ‘24 and Nicole Janeiro ‘23 searched for the college’s athletic inclusivity statement to seemingly no avail. They ultimately found one plaque that served as what was up until now the closest thing the college had to a statement. The plaque, according to Morse, only mentioned not playing discriminatory music in the locker rooms. Morse, Student Representative to DEAL (Diversity, Equity, and Access Leadership), and Janeiro, 2023 Class Chair came up with the idea of writing an inclusivity statement for the athletics department after attempting to make female and non-binary hours in the fitness center.

“Last year, I was Member-at-Large for the 2023 class council, and then this year I was elected to the 2023 class chair position. Someone in my class council had thought of the idea to have female to non-binary gym hours for students on campus who identify as either female or nonbinary… so I tried to do my best to try and coordinate that and make that happen,” said Janeiro. “It originally was not my idea but I wanted to help put it into fruition and then I reached out to Julianne [who] helped me sort of figure out how we can get it done and then we figured out in the process it wasn’t possible.”

“We wrote a proposal to SGA to create an ad-hoc committee for the hours, but that never unfolded unfortunately. Over winter break, I met with [the Director of Atheltics and Recreation] Gavin [Viano] and Judy Franciosi [Assistant Atheltics Director of Recreation and Fitness] and a few other people on campus and that’s when we found out unfortunately female to nonbinary hours are not a possibility in Papass Fitness Center,” said Morse. “It actually is illegal in the US Constitution – you can’t institute exclusive hours for an exclusive group of people. Then my next [thought] was so what can we do to fix this, because there is still a problem but what else can we do?”

“We didn’t want to drop the ball when we figured that out, so what can we do to still implement a more inclusive gym community on campus because it is a problem. I know a lot of women on campus and non-binary individuals have like talked to me personally about how uncomfortable they are to not only start working out and get into the groove of working out because they don’t know the people in the gym and they feel like they are being judged in the gym,” said Janeiro.

Undeterred by not having been able to implement their original idea, the pair sought to create a solution that could be implemented quickly and prove effective.

“One of the things I thought about was how can we make an immediate quick impact that makes a legacy essentially. And I [thought that an] inclusivity statement would be huge. Nicole and I spent an evening drafting it up,” said Morse.

Morse, a member of the cross country and track and field teams, felt trepidation over how those in athletics would respond to this statement being created.

“I was really scared of the way other athletes were going to perceive this. They’re [those in the athletic community] going to think I’m attacking their way of life. Even though I am an athlete and I am also a member of SGA, playing those two roles and having those two lives on campus [can be] difficult,” said Morse. “The feedback that I’ve gotten has been really positive. People are really excited to have this, and people are, I don’t want to say they are excited to be held accountable, but they are happy to be held accountable for their actions, and that is something we haven’t had in the past, so I think a lot of students had a good reaction to this.”

In addition to putting up a new plaque for the improved inclusivity statement, the two are working to record how-to videos about how to use different machines and do different workouts in the fitness center.

“For me, this is such a big ‘practice what you preach’ moment because I am a big believer in actions speak louder than words, and these videos, and these signs we put up are actions and they speak louder than words. It’s our responsibility to educate and create a space that is representative of the inclusivity statement,” said Morse.