by Elise Kei-Rahn ’17
My friends call me a college gym junkie—not because of any lifelong love of staying active, but because I have at least four student IDs in my wallet that can get me into various collegiate athletic centers. I have an ID from when I attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and enjoyed a 50 million dollar three floor student recreation center for non-Varsity athlete students. I also frequented Amherst College’s Wolff Athletic Center, Smith College’s Olin Fitness Center, and Columbia University’s Dodge Physical Fitness Center during my past summer internships. While each school is distinct, they all share a superiority to our own Ferris Athletic Center. Granted, UMass and Columbia both need to service larger student bodies, the fact remains that our athletic facilities don’t stack up against most of the other NESCAC schools, like Amherst, or even other liberal arts colleges such as Smith.
The most common qualm against Ferris is that the facilities are so outdated. This isn’t an entirely accurate depiction, though. In 2014, Ferris’ men’s and women’s locker rooms, their equipment rooms, and laundry facilities were renovated. In addition, the College took several measures—installing low-flow toilet fixtures, new faucets and shower heads that reduce water consumption—reducing our campus’ carbon footprint. The varsity weight room, while windowless and isolated, has updated and plentiful equipment like Rogue Fitness squat racks. The outdated fixtures in Ferris mainly lay in the Hazelton Fitness Center, often referred to as the NARP (Non-Athlete Regular Person) gym.
When I visited Trinity as a prospective transfer student, I wondered why Ferris wasn’t included in the tour. I now realize that the state of the gym is embarrassing compared to the other buildings on campus. Hazleton has all the necessities upon first glance: cardio equipment, free weights, weight machines, and a stretching area. However, if you actually intend to use the gym in an effective manner, the equipment is an entirely different story. Amongst the issues is the sole rowing machine, which has a rusty chain and a broken monitor. Some of stationary bikes don’t have working monitors or the resistance can’t be adjusted. The gym’s two medicine balls sit deflated in the corner of the stretching area. The cable on one of the lateral pull-down machines is broken and has remained this way for my entire time at Trinity.
When I was younger, my mother told me, “It’s not about what you have in your possession,” in this case, the gym equipment, “but rather how you utilize what you have.” It is possible to get a great workout in Hazleton if you really try, but I think there is a limit to this belief. Students should not have to wait 45 minutes for a squat rack at peak workout hours.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics data, 670 students, approximately 32% of our student body, are varsity athletes. This means the estimated 68% of the remaining population, roughly 1,400 students, are left to use Hazleton. Now, not every student goes to the gym on a regular basis or even wants to use a squat rack, so let’s say that 45% of the remaining 1400 students (630 students) want to use one of the squat racks. There is a disproportionate amount of racks to students, and these numbers don’t even include faculty, staff, and alumni who also frequent the gym. The varsity gym’s seven racks offer much more time-efficiency to the influx of students.
It’s important for the school to provide adequate facilities to both varsity and non-varsity students alike, because staying active and healthy isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic right. One should hope that the $63,970 comprehensive fee would offer a student the opportunity to get quick access to a basic piece of equipment such as a treadmill or bike in between class and dinner.
Similarly to the disproportionate range of equipment between varsity and non-varsity student athletes, there is a lopsided spectrum of treatment between various teams on campus. The complicated athletic budget – taking into account roster size, staffing, the cost of equipment – allocates varying financial support to different teams. So, trying to compare two teams becomes a moot point.
There’s an additional emphasis, though, on a team’s performance and their importance to the College’s image. For example, the track team and football team share outdoor facilities because the track surrounds the football field. Our track has been in disrepair for years, containing large patches of bare ground and an inadequate amount of lanes to host home track meets. The track initially couldn’t be renovated because of a football team superstition. The team hadn’t lost a game on their home field in over ten years so tearing up the track and field was out of the question. Having formerly been on the track team, I obviously hold prejudice in wanting new facilities. But the need for a new track isn’t based on aesthetics; it’s based the idea that no athlete can physically attain top speed while trying to recall where holes are in the ground so he or she doesn’t face-plant. Our school shouldn’t place superstition before safety.
While a new track is in the works, inadequate facilities for the entire student body—varsity and non-varsity alike— remains a lingering issue. There needs to be a temporary solution until a newer facility can be built. Perhaps rearranging the layout of the fitness center so it can fit in more pieces of equipment or placing some machines in Unit D will allow a higher volume of traffic.
Whatever the change is to Ferris, it needs to come soon. Ferris Athletic Center may have fulfilled the needs of students for the past decade, but its time has expired. Students should not have to wait years for Trinity to fashion a new plan because something as important as physical fitness and well-being cannot afford to be put on hold.