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Stanford protects inclusivity by banning men from the gym twice a week

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanford said it was adding “an equal number of hours focusing on weight lifting for men” after this article was published, though several questions remain. To learn more, read this subsequent post.

Male student files federal complaint over ‘sex-based stereotypes’

Michigan State University operated a women-only lounge going back to the Great Depression. The University of Michigan-Flint has excluded whites and males from consideration for certain faculty awards.

Economist Mark Perry filed civil rights complaints against both practices. Now the UM-Flint professor is training his sights on another gender-segregated space: a gym at Stanford University.

A student at the elite private university asked for Perry’s help publicizing the new no-men hours in a space at Stanford’s Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center.

It started offering “Women’s Only Training” on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, an idea hatched by the chairs of the “Inclusivity Committee” of the Recreation and Wellness department, according to The Stanford Daily. (The school took down the page after this story published Thursday, so an archived copy has been inserted.)

The limitation is only applied to men who identify as men, however: Men who identify as women are allowed in the space at all times.

This method of “Inspiring a healthier Stanford” may in fact violate both the law and “Stanford’s own statement of nondiscrimination,” Perry told the Stanford student in an email the professor shared with The College Fix.

Perry suggested the segregated workout program was hypocritical in a full analysis: “So in the new upside-down world on college campuses, ‘excluding’ half of the campus from a university facility for four hours per week is celebrated as advancing ‘inclusivity’?”

MORE: Perry files civil rights complaint against women-only study lounge

Would you support banning women to make men feel ‘comfortable’?

Jennifer Sexton, director of fitness and wellness, and Daralisa Kelley, associate director of recreation programs, decided the center would be more inclusive if it excluded men for two hours two days a week.

They cited feedback from female students who “didn’t feel comfortable in large gym spaces,” according to the Daily. The Inclusivity Committee they chair had already been consulting various interest groups at Stanford on their “needs” for the past year.

The president of the Stanford Undergraduate Veterans Association, Adam Behrendt, filed a complaint against the no-men hours with Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access, who oversees the Title IX Office.

He also protested to Sexton that the restricted hours “discriminate on the basis of sex and perpetuate sex-based stereotypes,” in an email chain that Behrendt provided to The Fix.

Sexton responded that the Daily had inserted words into her mouth – that the decision was driven by gym equipment being “hard and confusing to use for beginners” – but she didn’t address Behrendt’s main point about the exclusive nature of the new hours.

“We created it to make a place where women and trans women at any level would feel comfortable working out,” Sexton continued, without saying why biological women would still feel comfortable working out with biological men who identify as women.

MORE: MSU has been on notice about the women-only lounge for years

Behrendt doubled down on his claim and asked Sexton if she would “support the exclusion of women from a gym in order to make men ‘at any level’ more comfortable.” Sexton did not further respond, he said.

In addition to the internal Stanford complaint, Behrendt said he filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against Stanford.

While the Daily says “feedback seems positive” about the no-men change, its only source of feedback is one female student who said she has started working out only during the no-men hours. All three reader comments on the article are critical of the program.

The program webpage also doesn’t specify whether the “trans-inclusive space” is intended only for male students who identify as women, or also female students who identify as men.

Veterans don’t deserve protection?

The exclusion of men from certain gym hours rubs Behrendt the wrong way in part because of Stanford’s rejection of his own antidiscrimination proposal.

Just days before the Daily made public the no-men hours, the Board of Judicial Affairs turned down Behrendt’s proposal of six months earlier: the inclusion of “military affiliation” or “veteran status” in the university’s so-called Fundamental Standard.

It currently reads: “Students are expected to respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others regardless of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic status.”

The board said military members are “already covered” in a different part of the Fundamental Standard on “respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others.”

MORE: UM-Flint admits faculty awards that block men, whites are illegal

In an email to The Fix, Behrendt cited comments “stereotyping men” by one of the gym trainers in the Daily story, who said women will feel safer with “no guys ‘macho-ing’ around.”

“Identity politics are disgusting in general, but it’s especially sad when a University as reputable as Stanford will openly discriminate against men ‘to be more inclusive of women’ while simultaneously denying veterans even visible affirmation in their guiding document,” Behrendt wrote The Fix.

Neither has the university responded to his request to include veterans in its “Acts of Intolerance” protocol, he claims.

The former Navy corpsman said he has an “allergic reaction [to] the hypocrisy inherent in University culture,” including Stanford’s alleged discrimination against undergraduate veterans in financial aid – an earlier cause of Behrendt’s.

He also noted that a data breach revealed several years of financial aid documents that contradicted the administration’s claim that financial assistance was determined “solely” by financial need. Women in fact received larger average awards than men, regardless of their finances.

Behrendt said he didn’t have a copy of the internal complaint he filed, just a response receipt from the Department of Education.

How about men-only hours?

Perry seems to relish the opportunity to call out another school for practices that facially violate antidiscrimination laws.

In a Wednesday column for the American Enterprise Institute, where he’s a scholar, Perry said the no-men training hours appear to violate Title IX’s sex discrimination clause:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

The program also seems to fly in the face of the university’s own nondiscrimination policy, which bans “unlawful discrimination” based on sex “in the administration of the University’s programs and activities,” he continued.

Perry floated the idea of balancing out the women-only gym hours by adding men-only hours at a different time, “but that act of gender inclusivity probably would be rejected for being somehow ‘exclusive.’”

The Fix reached out to multiple Stanford administrators for comment Wednesday: Schoenthaler, the overseer of the Title IX Office; Catherine Glaze, Title IX coordinator; Lisa Lapin, vice president for university communications; EJ Miranda, senior director of university media communications; Sexton and Kelley, the Inclusivity Committee chairs responsible for the no-men hours; Steve Porter, senior university counsel; Linda Woodward, director of legal services; and General Counsel Debra Zumwalt.

Miranda responded to The Fix in a Feb. 23 email to dispute the characerization of the women-only hours as Stanford banning “men from a gym.” But he also disclosed that Stanford has responded to criticism by opening the same space for the same number of hours “focusing on weight lifting for men.” For more information on that change, see this subsequent post.

CORRECTION AND CLARIFICATION: The original article misstated which entity gave Adam Behrendt a response receipt for his complaint. It was the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The Facebook photo for Behrendt’s veterans group has also been changed because the original depicted a veterans group at a different school. Stanford took down the “Women’s Training Hours” page after this story published; a link to the archived version has been added. Behrendt also wishes to explicitly state that he did not raise the issue of transgender access during restricted gym hours. Jennifer Sexton, who responded to his complaint, brought it up herself. A Stanford spokesperson told The Fix after this article was published that the school had added male-focused hours in the same workout space in response to criticism.

MORE: Stanford’s years of hidden discrimination against men

IMAGE: Studio Romantic/Shutterstock

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