Petition requests access to Cousens weight room
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 17:09
A number of students and community members are petitioning for the Athletics Department to reopen the Lunder Fitness Center in Cousens Gymnasium to the entire Tufts community, following this year’s enactment of a policy that limits the weight room space to varsity sports teams.
The petition comes after the opening at the start of the semester of the 42,000-square-foot Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, which houses a separate 8,500-square-foot fitness space dedicated to the entire Tufts community, featuring 80 brand-new exercise machines. The Tisch Center’s goal is to provide more and better opportunities for community members to get involved in fitness. But, according to the petition, some students and alumni are unsatisfied with the size of the new space.
Since Nathan Ricci (LA ’08 and E '13) launched the electronic petition on TuftsLife last week, 233 people have signed, bringing the issue to the Athletics Department’s attention, Ricci said.
“Whoever was doing the planning knows what they are doing and really cares about the physical fitness of the Tufts community,” Ricci said. “The fact that I think they care is why I’m asking for this change in policy and not just silently grumbling.”
Ricci believes reopening the Lunder weight room to the student body at-large will be an efficient use of space, particularly when the weight lifting area of the new Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center is crowded and space is limited.
In the past, when Cousens was the only fitness facility on campus, varsity teams displaced community users during reserved times for team workouts.
Now that varsity teams have their own area, they do not have to schedule space in the new fitness facility, allowing the greater community to use the fitness center without time restrictions, Director of Athletics William Gehling told the Daily in an email.
Gehling said that the Athletics Department is in the midst of assessing the depth of the problem addressed in the petition and determining a thoughtful response.
“I have asked my staff to investigate the issues and clarify the reality so we can then consider a tweak to our policy for the greater good,” he said.
Petition supporters said they understand why Tufts’ varsity athletes need private space for team workouts but would like to use the space when varsity teams are not in there. Currently, the Cousens weight room is locked when varsity teams do not have the area reserved.
“This is the first time in my Tufts history where they restrict community access completely to a part of the campus,” Alex Bloom (LA ’08) said. “If you have the facilities, why not let everyone use them?”
Women’s varsity field hockey team captain Lia Sagerman, a senior, said varsity athletes value having a facility reserved entirely for team workouts, adding that the varsity-only policy provides teams with more space and fewer time constraints.
“I think the athletes work so hard to represent the school in a positive light, and training is a really important aspect of that,” Sagerman said. “To take [a varsity-only training room] away after you’ve built this beautiful, multimillion dollar facility for everyone would send the wrong message to the athletic community.”
During the first few weeks of the semester, the weight room in Cousens was left open during unreserved hours for general community use, but in mid-September Bloom said he found it locked with the lights shut off.
“It was a rather unpleasant surprise,” he said.
Bloom said he visits Cousens in the late evening, when varsity teams do not usually hold team workouts in the weight-lifting facility.
“It would be nice if even two hours a night the room [were] open,” he said.
Junior Samuel Rock said he uses the weight lifting area at the new fitness center about five times a week and supports the petition because he often feels limited by the allotted space when it gets busy.
“It’s all so close together,” Rock said. “It’s silly how small it is. It’s pretty frustrating.”
Carolyn St. Laurence, a staff member at the front desk of the new fitness center, explained that the facility is still in a transition phase since its grand opening, with changes still being implemented on an ongoing basis.
“We’re using some of the old equipment for now, just until the new equipment comes,” she said. “Everyone was just expecting it all right now.”