Toward the end of 2023, Colorado State University (CSU) Campus Recreation unveiled a new area at the Student Recreation Center dedicated to the WeREC — which stands for respect, empower and care — program.
Nick Eppley, the assistant director of CSU Campus Recreation Marketing and Communications, said the new space helps bring the campaign to physical form to better create a culture change on campus and in fitness areas.
“WeREC helps create a gym and recreation culture that lifts up our entire community and especially lifts up those who have historically been excluded or not felt affirmed in fitness/sport/recreation spaces,” said Eppley.
Core tenets of WeREC include:
- Respecting patrons’ privacy while they work out and not using trash talk rooted in sexism, racism, etc. when competing.
- Empowering all people to report harmful behaviors, and training staff on bystander intervention techniques.
- Caring for all campus members, no matter their fitness experience or body size.
WeREC Area Features
The grand opening of the new space was held on November 2, 2023. Eppley said expansive artwork covers the walls including phrases like “everybody is welcome,” “don’t lurk like a jerk,” “every journey starts with small movements,” “use gender inclusive language,” “healthy is not a body type or weight,” and “try something new at the rec.”
Additional attributes fostering WeREC’s mission are more approachable weights than found in other areas of the rec center, new equipment with custom QR codes featuring student trainers showing how to use each piece and expanded ADA accessible equipment.
“So far, the response has been encouraging,” said Eppley. “We’ve heard directly from some patrons that the campaign and messaging in the new area has helped them feel more welcomed and comfortable, though we know we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of pushing against problematic gym cultures and behaviors. We’re working to continue spreading the word about the campaign while also listening keenly to patron feedback as we go.”
How Other Schools Can Improve Gym Culture
Aside from the positive response, Eppley said the campaign serves Campus Recreation as a consistent thread that ties many areas together.
“It’s helped create more inclusive programming and spaces beyond just the new area,” said Eppley. “It’s been infused into staff trainings, overall promotional efforts, facility conversations and budget development. That’s led to an ever-growing list of ideas for future implementation, as well as a strong sense of community among our teams internally.”
If your department is considering creating a similar program like CSU’s, Eppley advised to first gather and analyze assessment data to better understand patron experiences that fall short of department values.
“Consistent collaboration across areas has been crucial to WeREC’s success,” said Eppley. “We’ve also focused on continuing to keep patron feedback flowing, including activities during our Night @ The Rec fall semester kickoff event asking how the campaign can be put into action.”
Moving forward, CSU Campus Recreation will also continue to have iterative and evolving conversations about how to keep advancing the campaign. Eppley said this will be achieved by coming back to a central charge based on the specific needs of patrons, which has helped the department stay focused and driven toward further change.
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