Inclusion by Design

No person or organization is perfect, without flaws or mistakes. UW-Madison, is of course, no exception, but we are always striving to do better. The history of recreation and athletics on campus is fraught with gender inequality and racism. For instance, students of color on campus were not allowed to partake in all athletic games, a practice known as “color lining,” until 1958. Additionally, female students had segregated recreation facilities and did not have locker rooms at most campus rec facilities until the early 1970s. In both these cases, change was brought about by students and faculty organizing and demanding change.

At Rec Well, we recognize this history and are always trying to listen to students in order to do better. Both the Bakke Wellbeing & Recreation Center and the Nicholas Recreation Center have thoughtful spaces in them that were intended to make these places more inclusive. A great example of this is the non-gendered locker room on the third floor of Bakke. This space, referred to as the People’s Locker Room, includes design elements such as individual changing rooms, restrooms, and showers, all of which have floor to ceiling doors for privacy. There are still traditional gendered locker rooms elsewhere in Bakke (members may use whichever locker room or restroom they are comfortable with). Having a non-gendered option that feels like more than an afterthought is something that students wanted, and we were very conscientious of this during the design phase. We believe it is important to have our spaces reflect our policies.

If you are interested in learning more about campus history, please check out the Public History Project: Sifting and Reckoning, which focuses on the history of discrimination on this campus and those who fought to change the state of things. We recently installed a history wall at Bakke, which has a timeline outlining all the changes in recreation throughout campus history. It is on display in the east hallway on the first floor, come see it for yourself to learn more about our place in recreation history.