Athletics survey asks about gym comfort

Carleton Athletics has received over 1,300 responses to a survey seeking feedback on gym-goers’ satisfaction and comfort level with the fitness centre.

Athletics releases surveys for its users every month, but felt they had yet to release a survey aimed at the general public, according to Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s athletic director.

She said the survey was inspired by the women’s-only gym hour campaign, which launched in November 2016 and resulted in a women’s-only fitness room in the spring. The survey results will not be made public, as they are for internal use, Brenning said.

Some of the survey questions asked about the women’s-only exercise room and if users experienced difficult or uncomfortable situations in the centre.

Responses to the survey were fairly equal in terms of male and female respondents, Brenning said. According to her, respondents were “overwhelmingly satisfied” with the fitness centre, however, 10 per cent of them indicated a level of discomfort.

“We have to probe a little differently to see what that might mean,” Brenning said.

She said the survey also highlighted how many fitness centre users did not feel comfortable approaching fitness centre staff. Brenning said the centre is working on training its part-time staff in violence and sexual assault prevention as well as conflict resolution.

“It’s just encouraging them to walk around the room, be a little more present, and then some training around customer service and approachability and that sort of thing,” Brenning said.

Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, vice-president (operations) of the Graduate Students’ Association, said in an email she thought the right questions were being asked in the Athletics survey, but that they could have been phrased differently.

“There is a conflation of sex with gender, which is common but still problematic . . . because using gender alone makes a lot of assumptions on how people may or may not experience violence within men and masculine-dominated spaces,” Owusu-Akyeeah said.

“There are zero areas in the survey where respondents can actually write their opinions down,” she added.

Owusu-Akyeeah said she would like to see the results of the survey made public, but wants people to keep the women’s-only gym hour campaign in mind when viewing the data.

“Staff members of Athletics were guilty of derailing the conversation on women’s and non-binary students’ concerns by bringing up the ‘but what about men who feel unsafe?’ rhetoric,” Owusu-Akyeeah said. “Some members were also guilty of trying to remove the intersection of religion from this . . . I think it’s important that students especially know this before inevitable ‘praise’ is given to Athletics for being so forward-thinking [with this survey].”

Athletics will continue to get feedback from fitness centre participants to ensure that the centre is addressing their concerns, according to Brenning.

“We’re going to continue [with the women’s-only fitness room] next year and hopefully encourage more women, if they are not comfortable in the fitness centre, to certainly take advantage of that,” Brenning said.

Photo credits: Meagan Casalino