Pumping Up House Gyms

Harvard's new granst will help improve exercise options while MAC renovations lag

Students waging the perpetual fight against flab can soon look forward to significant aid from University Hall. The announcement last Monday that each House will receive a grant of $20,000 for gym improvements shows admirable commitment to enhancing student life on the part of Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71. According to Gross, half of the funding will come from the College and the other half from the President’s office. With any luck, this prioritization of student’s exercise needs is an indication of similar steps to come.

The grants will total nearly a quarter-million dollars, funds that can go a long way towards ensuring that House gyms are well-equipped, inviting places for students to exercise. Many House gyms are currently dilapidated and lacking basic equipment, and while Undergraduate Council has made a valiant effort to provide needed funds, this project requires more financial muscle than the Council can exercise.

The lack of red-tape surrounding this move is also heartening. The College is working directly with students to improve their lives, without imposing layers of bureaucracy or months of stalling. One grant like this is worth a dozen investigatory committees.

In ensuring that the grants provided to improve these gyms are well spent, that House Committees and House gym managers should pool their resources. Potentially working with a coordinator at the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC), the House gyms can ensure that they take advantage of any bulk or institutional discounts available for machines and other gym equipment. If Houses cannot plan coordination themselves, the College or Council should offer to help the gyms pool their resources as well—such creative coordination between Houses will guarantee that students get the most bang for Harvard’s buck.

While renovating the MAC needs to remain a top priority for University Hall officials, these grants will help mitigate the lack of exercise space while students wait for University planners currently tied up in Allston planning to turn their attention to the outdated facility. It’s no secret that the MAC is over-crowded and under-stocked, and making House gyms viable alternatives will reduce some of the strain on that facility. House gyms are conveniently located and open 24 hours. Now there is a good chance they can become modern, comprehensive and welcoming too.