Debate over Women-Only Gym Hours at Harvard

Harvard University implemented a policy last month that provides women-only gym hours to accommodate Muslim women, launching a debate across the campus. The women-only gym hours are intended to allow Muslim women, who follow traditional dress codes by covering their hair and most of their skin in the public, to dress comfortably during exercise. Kiani was still stoned to death on July 5, 2007. Ebrahimi’s death was stayed due to the public outcry, and last week the Iranian judiciary amnesty commission released her from prison.

The Associated Press reports, men are not allowed into one of the university’s gyms on Mondays between 3pm and 5pm or on Tuesday and Thursdays between 8am to 10am, a total of six hours a week.

In an opinion piece for the Harvard Crimson, Nicholas Wells wrote, “I would firmly support a policy that upholds women’s equality and helps create a more inclusionary environment for people of all faiths. But administrating women-only hours in the Quandrangle Recreational Athletic Center does neither…it is an unreasonable policy that is unjust to men and useless to women.”

But Ola Aljawhary, another Harvard student, told the Associated Press, “The majority should be willing to compromise. I think that’s just basic courtesy. We must show tolerance and respect for all others.”

Robert Mitchell, a spokesperson for Harvard, explained the school’s decision: “We get special requests from religious groups all the time and we try to honor them whenever possible.” According to the Associated Press, the women-only policy will be reviewed at the end of the semester.


Associated Press 03/04/08; The Harvard Crimson 2/20/08; The Daily Pennsylvanian 02/27/08

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