Harvard Sets Women-Only Hours for Gym, Complying With Muslim Students' Request
In response to a request by female Muslim students, Harvard University has created women-only workout hours at one of its campus gyms. The decision has angered some students at the Ivy League university.
Since Jan. 28, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center has been open only to women from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays.
The change was prompted by a request from the Harvard College Women's Center, which was approached by six female Muslim students, said Robert Mitchell, communications director of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
"It was done for religious purposes, but it's not closed to other women who may want to participate," he said.
Ola Aljawhary, a student and a member of the Harvard Islamic Society, said the women-only gym is needed.
"These hours are necessary because there is a segment of the Harvard female population that is not found in gyms, not because they don't want to work out, but because for them working out in a co-ed gym is uncomfortable, awkward or problematic in some way," she told Boston University's Daily Free Press.
Harvard has made many accommodations for students' religious needs, Mitchell said. Those include prayer areas for Hindu and Muslim students as well as the rescheduling of exams to accommodate religious holidays.
"This is just yet another of what we thought was a reasonable request for some special times because of religion, not because of gender," Mitchell said.
The women-only hours are being tested on a trial basis and will be evaluated at the end of the semester, he said.
Reports of the Harvard decision have sparked discussion in student publications across the country, including the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where an athletics department spokesman said such a measure would be "hard to pull off" in the campus' primary gym.
1) Harvard Sets Women-Only Hours for Gym, Complying With Muslim Students' Request