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YouSpeak: Banning Cell Phones at FitRec

Policy stirs anger, debate


Watch this video on YouTube

It’s there for all to see on FitRec’s website—a “No Cell Phone Use” policy. FitRec makes it clear: “Once you pass through the turnstile in FitRec, there is no cell phone use allowed, including talking and texting.” Why? Privacy and safety, the site explains. “Most phones have cameras and those pose major privacy concerns—like people unknowingly having their picture taken.” As for safety: “Phones can be distracting and we have a lot of machinery and equipment that require concentration—talking on the phone becomes a safety hazard around this equipment.”

The policy has generated a lot of debate, meaning anger, among students.

So, this week’s “YouSpeak” asks: “Should cell phones be banned at FitRec?”

YouSpeak” appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

Joseph Chan can be reached at joechan@bu.edu. Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu. John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.


21 Comments on YouSpeak: Banning Cell Phones at FitRec

  • Adam on 02.28.2011 at 5:47 am

    Cell phone use should not be banned at Fitrec. As was mentioned in the video, cell phones these days are mp3 players, video players, timers, even workout trackers. For the smartphone crowd, we rely on those things to make a workout more effective. The risk is run of people taking inappropriate pictures of others, but that’s just how it is these days. If we’re worried about lewd pictures, why can cell phones still be used in the bathroom? I don’t want to see a fellow student in his skivvies, that’s for sure.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 6:25 am

    Poorly Written Rules Breed Contempt for the Rules

    Unfortunately, I think this rule falls into the category of well-meaning but overly broad and poorly crafted. I spoke at length with a manager about this when they first started to publicize this policy, and after I pointed out that I had seen over a dozen people listening to music on their phones, he assured me that I could do the same.

    Tellingly, the FitRec member handbook has a rule against photography, but it does not ban the presence of cameras nor does it ban the presence of mp3 players with cameras such as the iPod Nano. It does, however, state that “[c]amera
    phones and video phones are not permitted inside the facility,” not cameras, not even hidden cameras, but rather, “camera phones.” Does that make sense? Why not have a policy that says no pictures and that requiers those suspected of snapping shots to turn over their device for inspection? Why should someone with an iPod be able to listen to music but not an iPhone, esp. if the iPod has a camera?

    While talking to the manager about possibly watching a movie on my cell phone, an assistant chimed in with the detraction argument. I then I asked why they provided TVs for patrons to watch. For that matter what about people who read while on a treadmill. The assistant acquiesced.

    But what do I care, the manager told me I could listen to my music, and that’s the problem with poorly written rules, they do nothing but breed contempt for the rules.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 6:44 am

    Solid reasons, good policy.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 6:53 am

    I think its quite idiotic, especially when they use the “privacy” argument. Putting a sign up saying “no cell phone use” isn’t going to stop anybody from taking a picture if they really want to, in fact it might even goad the more immature folks out there to do the exact opposite. People should be allowed to take care of themselves in this respect. A FitRec “Policy” doesn’t make it any more illegal for someone to secretly take a picture and post it on the internet (for example) without the subject’s consent. If this is really the issue, why don’t the signs say “no photography of any kind.”

    Putting a halt to the use of cellphones on equipment that “requires concentration,” I understand. But this can be dealt with by informing people that it can be dangerous. If they don’t listen, it’s their own fault if they get injured. It can also be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

    Another reason why this rule doesn’t make sense is that there is no feasible way to enforce it. The FitRec staff occupy only small areas of the building on a regular basis. They don’t patrol the building like watchdogs, this makes the threat of breaking the rules rather feeble. The place where secretive photography is most likely to occur–the locker rooms–isn’t patrolled at all, for quite the same reasons that you don’t want pictures being taken.
    Take my advice, scrap this ineffective “rule,” think about what you really wanted to achieve by implementing it, then actually do something that will WORK.

    –Dan, COM Class of 2012

  • Rachel Chapman on 02.28.2011 at 6:59 am

    @FitRec - Some Social Media Advice

    I think the real anger stems not from the actual policy but from FitRec’s communication and general enforcement of the policy. For those not following FitRec on Twitter, they rudely and blatantly call people out for tweeting at FitRec or checking in on Foursquare/SCVNGR. After leaving FitRec, I was almost nervous to tweet about my intramural game victory, anticipating a rude reply.

    The final straw was FitRec calling out Dean Elmore for tweeting while watching a wrestling match. It’s absolutely ridiculous that the Dean of Students can’t embrace social media to engage students and increase attendance at sporting events, just because of some dumb policy that seems to only be enforced online.

    Yes, if people are acting conspicuously, FitRec should be quick to act. But the current method of enforcement just leads to a further disconnect between BU students and the management. If FitRec wants students to work with them for the safety of the community, it should follow Dean Elmore’s lead and embrace social media — not make students feel like their voice doesn’t matter by calling them out on a public platform.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 8:55 am

    Something to consider

    I’m not sure if this is a relevant observation, however BU policy requires students and employees to provide a cell phone number so the University can broadcast information in case of an imminent threat or emergency to the campus population.

    While I understand FitRec’s reasoning for the current policy, it would be beneficial for FitRec to also publish the steps taken to notify members at the center in the event of a threat or emergency, given that members are not allowed access to their emergency notification devices (cell phones).

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:19 am

    What about iPhones And iPods?

    I think a major thought that is overlooked with this strict policy is the use of iPods and iPhones as music devices and guides for beginners just starting to work out. Almost every person in the gym enjoys listening to their favorite pump up music while working out and usually this means using an iPod or if you are the lucky owner of an iPhone, using your all in one device. It would seem outrageous to dissallow the use of iPod and iPhones merely because they have cameras built into them now (née iPod generation now has cameras). Second, the iPhone and iPod provide some great apps that keep you organized and show beginners how to properly work out. It would seem almost counter intuitive for the gym to ban the use of these devices because it would also mean making it harder for newbies to start getting healthy. Anyway I think these two points are extremely strong and I know that I will not stop using these devices in the gym because I need them to stay in shape and enjoy my workout. I apologize for my terrible writing (I’m an engineer), but I hope my message is still clear.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:26 am

    Or, you could get a life

    Maybe you should put down the cell phone and worry a bit less about being the “mayor” of the second floor water fountains. Look around. You’re in college, probably the last time in your life you’re going to be surrounded by so many people your own age from such a wide range of backgrounds. It’s never going to be easier to make lifelong friends. Try something new. Talk to a stranger. Live life for real.

    You have 45+ years of being stuck in an office ahead of you to have a rich online life, watch those dumb videos, and rent that movie. Don’t waste these years staring at a little screen. They’ll be gone before you know it.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:31 am


    The reason FitRec has never allowed cell-phone use on the equipment is insurance. this policy is all about insurance premiums. This is based on 4 conversations with fitrec over 3 years(including about 3 weeks ago.) BU Today should have mentioned insurance.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:48 am

    I understand the privacy reasoning, but as others pointed out iPods and mp3 players can also take pictures and video. It also does not seem to be enforced at all. For 2 years I had no idea that you weren’t allowed to use cell phones. I listened to music, texted, and made calls while at FitRec and never had anyone say anything to me. Even after I noticed the signs I would still listen to music and text. Someone else commented that a manager told them it was ok to listen to music on a phone. If that’s allowed, why can’t you text? And how can it be enforced if you can’t tell the difference between someone making a playlist, switching songs, texting, or taking a picture? I think it would be reasonable to ban cameras, taking pictures, using electronics in the locker room maybe, but banning cell phones makes no sense.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:59 am

    Pointless and stupid

    It’s a stupid policy created by stupid people responding to a perceived threat that’s mostly in their imagination. There’s an old saying: “rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.” This is a perfect example.

    The rule is justified as thus: “Most phones have cameras and those pose major privacy concerns—like people unknowingly having their picture taken.” Well, here’s what’s wrong with that: you can “unknowingly” have your picture taken ANYWHERE, so that’s not a good enough reason to arbitrarily ban cellphones in one particular place. What “right to privacy” do people have while using an elliptical machine, anyway? WHO BLEEPING CARES if someone takes your picture while your stretching on a mat? If you don’t want to be seen working out, do it at home!

    The only thing that comes close to justifying a ban is the concern over people being photographed while undressing in a locker room. BUT YOU DON’T NEED A RULE FOR THAT! Anybody committing such a lewd act can be dealt with on an individual basis. There’s absolutely no reason at all to ban phones from the entire building just to prevent something that’s obviously already wrong and subject to disciplinary action.

  • Dave on 02.28.2011 at 10:22 am


    If you want to ban taking compromising pictures of people in the locker room, just say it’s against the rules to take compromising pictures of people in the locker room. The risk of “privacy concerns” is no justification for giving someone a hard time for making a phone call while using a rowing machine. If people were entitled to privacy while working out, the equipment wouldn’t be in a big room where everybody else can see you use it, and there wouldn’t be windows facing the street.

    Just because the media has relentlessly worked to make you paranoid about something doesn’t mean your concerns are justified. It was possible for people to take your picture without your knowledge long before the iPhone came along, nobody cared until someone made it their business to convince you that you should care. There are security cameras in fitrec, should we be paranoid about those cameras, too?

    The basic concern makes sense…the rule in response to it does not. What if we were to extend that logic elsewhere? Imagine if the dining halls banned forks because they can be used as weapons? A sharp pointy object being used as a weapon is a legitimate concern…but obviously banning them makes little sense, even if it would prevent it. Instead, we simply have a rules and laws that say you’re not allowed to attack other people, and if someone breaks them, we punish them.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 10:44 am

    Where the problem lies ...

    I’ve been a member of various of gyms for more than 20 years. As cellphones have come into fashion and regular use in the last decade, the standard policy at every gym I have belonged to has been:

    • No cellphone use in Locker Rooms
    • No cellphone use on gym floor or other activity areas
    • Designated area for cell phone use (usually a lounge area near front desk)

    This is a reasonable policy and addresses all of the FitRec management’s concerns.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 11:36 am

    Really interesting comments. So many people see this as about the fine line between the phone, the pod, the text, the tweet. How about atmosphere and a sense of civility? Hey, you on the cell phone … I can’t count how many times I’ve been on an elliptical trainer or treadmill and been treated to your phone conversation about how drunk you and your friends got Saturday night, who your BF/GF is, and what your plans are for later today. And I’m wondering why you’re there. Let’s be real, you’re not really working out. You’re reading US Magazine, glancing at Dr. Phil and yakking away as if it was your private club. Most of us view our FitRec time as a chance to focus, to pour ourselves into our bodies and improve in some small way every day. And hearing about your personal life or your call home to Mom is kind of embarrassing to me.

    (Now, that said, I’m also a creative writer. So I do consider words spoken in earshot to be fodder for my writing, and secretly, I’m hoping you’ll say something really salacious…)

    I’m strongly in the corner of the person who suggests that this is a special and unique time in your life regardless of your age – I don’t happen to be a young undergrad and I feel this way more than when I was 20 – so turn off the phone and text – and dig in. There are few things you can do better for yourself than to create a headspace around working out your body.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 12:01 pm

    Complaints about how people sound on the phone still isn’t good enough. If you think someone’s talking too loudly on their cell phone, that’s not a good reason to ban the phones…since you don’t need a phone to talk too loudly and disturb other people around you. What about two friends talking just as loudly “about how drunk they got Saturday night?” What about the other guy that’s using his phone but speaking softly? Why should he be subject to a ban while those two people not using a phone get away with it? If you want a ban on taking pictures, set a ban on taking pictures. If you want a ban on talking loudly and disturbing others, make a ban on talking loudly. Neither of these perceived threats is a reason to ban using phones altogether.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 12:55 pm

    I have not had the time to read through all these comments but often times I find it important to have my cell phone available while I am working out at FITREC. As a surgeon, I have very limited time to visit FITREC and even find myself there when I am on-call. It is extremely important for me to have access to my cell phone in case of an emergency in the clinic. I need to be accessed almost 24 hours a day 7 days a week and that includes while on the treadmill and elliptical.

    We cannot bend the rules for specific groups so it may be wise to keep the standing rule the way it is, approach anyone using their phones, and kindly ask the purpose of the call. We certainly don’t want everyone on their phone all the time. I do feel though people go to the gym for a reason and would not want to waste their own time also.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 5:50 pm

    Policy or not I still use my phone… YES inside Fitrec.

  • leighanne on 02.28.2011 at 11:49 pm

    cellphone use

    for the love of God, you can do without the phone while you are working out and exercising, it is usually less than an hour, you aren’t on it while you sleep, nap through your professor’s lecture, watch a 2 hour movie, etc. Just withdraw from it for your own sanity and others’

  • Anonymous on 03.01.2011 at 3:52 pm

    I signed the ban last year for “no cell phone use”
    I still go to Fitrec and find people of all sorts using, texting, talking, around the gym, in the locker rooms and even on the running track. I mean for god’s sake, if you’ll use the phone then leave the damn track to people who are actually there to run/walk, not spending their leisure time “hanging out at the Fitrec”.
    Also I agree with many of the previous comments about the “obnoxious girls” who talk about; what happened last night, last Saturday, who hooked up with who, who called who. Seriously I’m at the Fitrec to exercise not to hear all about your love life…Grow up and if you really need to discuss such things go to the dining hall!
    Yes maybe banning is not so much logical but people should feel responsible and civilized on their own not to bother others!
    Just respect the other.

  • Anonymous on 03.02.2011 at 2:52 pm

    You are in college - Grow up, be an adult and put down the phone

    Oh you poor oppressed dissidents– not allowed to write to your BFF “OMG LOL” while walking on the treadmill or call your roommate to talk about what you are going to wear to the party tonight!

    In reading the comments in favor of revoking the ban, I can’t help but hear the smug tone of a pseudo-adult looking at this as some sort of generational battle between the “establishment” (read out of touch old-fogies) and the young, connected, on-the-go, must be plugged in all the time, student population.

    This is not the epic battle for freedom as you would like it portrayed.

    It’s about common sense, common courtesy and common manners.

    It is rude to be speaking on your phone in close proximity to others.

    It is rude (and ignorant) to be walking and texting and not paying attention to others around you.

    I know Mommy and Daddy treat you like the whole world revolves around you, but guess what Skippy?

    It doesn’t.

    The “real world” is full of rules. The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be.

    And as far as the camera issue is concerned, maybe you don’t care or worry about something sketchy happening to you like that. Fine.

    But other people are VERY concerned about that possibility and the best way to avoid it is to keep the phones put away for the time you are working out.

    Its not that difficult – you might actually enjoy the respite of peace and quiet once you try it.

  • Anonymous on 03.04.2011 at 2:36 pm

    Get a life? We have one, that's why we need our phones.

    Those of you saying that people using phones in the gym need to get a life obviously need to get one’s themselves. Some of us have busy schedules and have to fight to find the time to go to the gym. Cell phones are needed to finalize plans to work on projects or study sessions. And the emergency issue is a good point. It’s not like everyone is on their phones to talk to their “BFFs”. People can take pictures anywhere and they can make fun of them anywhere.

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