Why a Women’s Day would make the rec center more accessible.
By Chloe Ourada
American Journalism Student
It was announced in Fall 2023 that Saint Mary’s College of California hired its first Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Officer, Jess Varga. Varga has experience working at many colleges and was most recently the Title IX Officer at the University of San Francisco. Though new to Saint Mary’s, she possesses a positive and hopeful attitude towards the school. As she said about her hire, “it is a message that shows the institution is working towards bettering itself, that this is something they care about.” Her hire also shows that there is always room for improvement. Although the Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Officer position is new, women’s fear of being harassed in gym spaces is nothing new.
Ingrid Alkire, a senior, said of the Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center, “I find it intimidating. I don’t go there. I used to go a little bit, but I don’t really go anymore.” She continued, “The weight section especially, there’s a lot of guys. I feel kind of out of place, and it can be embarrassing.”
Students who identify as women report feeling that certain spaces in the rec center are too male-dominated. “I love going to the rec center, but a lot of times I feel like I need to earn my place when I am there, especially at the free weights section” explained Lillian La Salle, a sophomore, “I feel like I have to be angry all the time, like it’s a weakness to smile.”
This view is shared by many women. “For the most part [the rec center’s] pretty good, but there are some specific areas I go that I notice are more male dominated,” added Jenna Thibodeau, a senior, “and sometimes, if it’s really all guys and there’s no girls in there, I think, ‘Maybe I’ll come back later.’”
This last comment addresses a barrier in accessibility. “Some students feel hesitant about using the space. I definitely encounter students with hesitancy, who say, ‘I’ll just go for a walk instead,’” noted Sharon Sobotta, the Director of the Center for Women and Gender Equity (CWGE).
Having a Women’s Day at the rec center would make the space more accessible to students who may not feel comfortable there otherwise. So what would a Women’s Day look like?
Many might assume that on such a day, women would be the only people able to use the rec center, but that is not the case. “The actual challenge or concern that comes up is when access is restricted based on sex or gender,” stated Varga. Since we are a federally funded school, our rec center cannot restrict access based on sex due to Title IX.
But nor would we want to. “It might be really great for men to be in a space with all this information,” Varga supposed. Male-identifying students should also be encouraged to participate in a Women’s Day because the information that they learn while doing so would make every other day at the rec center better for women.
Mariel Littorno, the Assistant Director of Recreation Programming and Operations for the rec center, could see a Women’s Day including many different things. She discussed the possibility of having posters, pamphlets, speakers, and classes like yoga, spin, and self-defense. In short, the goals of a Women’s Day would be to raise awareness, celebrate, and center women in this space that is historically masculine.
The last question that remains, is whether or not this event is truly feasible. Both students and staff seem to think so. “Having a Women’s Day would be really cool,” La Salle said. Sobotta affirmed that if a Women’s Day came to fruition, the CWGE would want to be a part of it. And Varga said of the idea, “I think it’s brilliant.”
All in all, the rec center is a notable asset on our campus, and we want to make sure that this asset is equally accessible to everyone. A Women’s Day would make the rec center more inviting and welcoming for women.
Madison Sciba '24,