Upgrading Kresge

by Ryan Tan | 10/27/03 6:00am

Recently, the Student Assembly called a meeting to discuss the possible expansion of Kresge, in light of the administration's recent shelving of plans to build a new gym to replace the almost 100-year-old Alumni Gym. Sarah Berger called for the student body to "demonstrate the need for a new fitness center," and noted the small budget -- approximately $5,000 a year -- allocated to Kresge.

It is painfully evident that Kresge needs an overhaul. I've heard so many complaints -- both by frequent and recreational users -- that Kresge needs to be upgraded. How many of you have waited in line for the ridiculous half-an-hour limit on cardiovascular machines per day? I have a friend that wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to call and make sure that she gets her coveted lunch-time spot. Personally, I'm tired of seeing only one decline free-weight bench. Why can't we have the new types of stacked free weights, which allow one to increase weights in smaller increments when working smaller muscles, as compared to a five-pound jump?

As one of my friends noted, it's hard to imagine that small a space serving a student body of over 4,000 undergraduates. Adding to the strain on Kresge are the graduate students, faculty and community members, all of whom are an indelible part of the community. If any of you has been to Kresge at the peak times (such as just before dinner) you'll see exactly what I mean. The physical space, and the variety of machines, needs to be improved. This discrepancy is even more obvious when one compares fitness centers across universities -- take for example Yale's Payne Whitney Gymnasium, which boasts nine and a half stories of athletic equipment for varsity and recreational users alike.

Kresge also provides for a place in which community members, faculty and students can mingle and learn from one another. I've made some friends there, such as Mike, who is 60 and constantly inspires me with his story about how working out helped him to recover from a heart attack. Hugh Mellert is always hard at work, sharing his wisdom with users as to the proper form and technique when using weights. It always brings a smile to my face when I see one of my economics professors there in the gym as well, and we always make it a point to engage in friendly chit-chat in between our routines.

Indeed, in an era in which health concerns are slowly gaining prominence, keeping fit and healthy has increasingly become a part of a college student's life. There are well-documented benefits to exercising, such as stress relief, the release of endorphins and so on. Besides, the option should be there -- even if I am an infrequent exerciser, if I suddenly want to go down to Kresge it is in my interests that the machines there are generally of a high quality, and that it is not so crowded as to turn me away completely.

As an undergraduate advisor, I participate in two weeks of training that the Office of Residential Life schedules before the fall term. A part of the training are the popular "rotational sessions," in which UGAs get the chance to move around in small groups and listen to presentations by different departments on campus. When I was in training last year, the poor person representing the athletics center was inundated with questions about Kresge, so much so that this year, they brought in Sarah Berger as a entirely separate presenter just to field questions by dissatisfied UGAs about the current inadequacies of Kresge. I would argue that the UGAs, as live-in advisors, have a good handle on the general issues pertaining to the residents on their floors -- if they think that this is a problem, it signals that this is indeed a pertinent issue.

The Student Assembly should make this a core priority. More importantly, they should -- as the leaders who claim to give a voice to the student body -- take the lead in organizing some sort of overt show of support for a new Kresge, not only in terms of physical space, but also with regards to new equipment, the replacing of old, rusted weights and upgrading the current cardiovascular machines in both quality (newer models, with possible heart-rate tracking devices) and quantity.

There are few issues in which the student body is united, and this is one of them. The upgrading of Kresge is an issue in which the Student Assembly has the opportunity to demonstrate its leadership and to enhance the confidence of the student body in their representation of their views.

The Student Assembly has done well in calling attention to the issue. Now, however, is the time for concrete action. It is time for them to take the lead and initiate an organized show of support -- be it a signed petition, an online letter-writing campaign or otherwise -- that will demonstrate our willingness to hit the ball back into the administration's court.