Injustice in the fitness center

It’s one o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday. I’m just about to put two 45-pound plates on the bar stationed atop the bench press when something interrupts my train of muscle-bound thought.

“Alright, guys. Fifteen minutes until we close,” the fitness room supervisor announces. “We’ll be open again at three.”

My reaction is not that I’m angry. I’m just perplexed. Two minutes later I’m angry, knowing that the fitness center is not open at convenient college times simply because there aren’t enough federal work study students for that to happen.

The issue runs deeper than just that. It’s a matter of priorities. Warner Library is open from 8 a.m. in the morning until the late hours of the night. The fitness room is open when the athletic department can find students to work. Now, please don’t take me for some macho man who only considers his own have-to-look-good-for-the-ladies agenda. Academics should come first at any institution established for the purpose of education and the library hours are rightfully so.

Here is my analysis: the fitness room is operated by the athletic department and staffed by federal work study students. Starting pay for fitness center employees is minimum wage: $7.15 an hour. Of that $7.15, 80 percent is paid for by the government while the university contributes the other 20 percent. My unofficial calculations show that 20 percent of $7.15 is $1.43.

According to Bettie Ann Brigham, vice president of student development and Ryan Livingston, assistant athletic director, the budget is only enough for federal work study students. If the university were to hire non-federal work study students, they would have to pay them the full $7.15 an hour.

I understand financial limitations and confess that I am no expert on the economics of the situation, but doesn’t $1.43 an hour sound like free labor? What kind of a budget is it when you aren’t paying your employees anything?

The student development section of the university’s student handbook says, “Eastern University is deeply committed to ‘student development’ as an essential element of our educational mission as a Christian liberal arts college.” Of the four areas of student development identified by the handbook, physical development is one of them.

The athletic department has visions of upgrades and facility improvements at some point in the not-so-distant future. When you see the rust stains on your hands after using the fitness room weights, it makes sense. But before we go and make plans to start fund raising for any of that, can’t we improve the quality of things for students suffering right now?

The fitness center attendant on duty saw the tears in my eyes when she told me I had to leave. You can’t just ask me to come back at 3 p.m. My urges to throw weights around come at times I cannot predict. So she was nice and allowed me to stay. After I was done, she locked up the weight room. Anyone who marched to the weight room between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. found a closed door.

My favorite time to work out is still 10 p.m. Not that anyone cares. Bummer for me that the new closing time for Monday through Thursday is 9 p.m. Friday it’s 7 p.m. Saturday it’s 5 p.m.

Eastern should be in the business of rewarding students for making an attempt to work out, not discouraging them by telling them to come back at another time. But alas, fitness tends to be the one area of student development that gets left out in college.

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