These days talk about Harvard’s plans for expansion seems confined to the area south of the Charles. With all eyes on Allston, it’s easy to forget about the College’s commitment to maintaining and improving existing facilities. But with the $2 million renovations to the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) now nearly completed, Harvard has demonstrated renewed conscientiousness in keeping up its obligations to current undergraduates, and for that the University deserves praise.
A much-needed rejuvenation of the MAC has been long in the works, and the renovation—while not the extensive overhaul once envisioned—is an important step in the right direction. As the primary athletic facility for the majority of Houses—as well as the Yard—the addition of treadmills and spinning bikes will go a long way toward alleviating both the lack of availability and the rigid time-slotting so irksome to busy undergraduates. When viewed in light of other recent changes—such as the recent funding initiative to significantly enhance House gyms as well as the gutting of Hilles to make way for additional student space—it is clear that Harvard is finally making headway in its inevitable and problematic space crunch. Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross deserves much praise for these new enterprises and for making the changes most pertinent to students’ needs.
Though yardlings and riverites will rightly rejoice in the near doubling of cardiovascular facilities and the improvement of the weight rooms, this renovation is not the end of the MAC’s woes. Allocation of space in the MAC, while better, continues to be inefficient and falls far below the building’s maximum potential. Furthermore, concerns about where to relocate the remaining three varsity sports teams who call the MAC home have prevented other much-needed space from being freed up. At some point, a more extensive renovation may be necessary. In the meantime, however, upgrading the MAC’s facilities seems to have satisfied students’ main concern—the dearth of workout machines. The new equipment is a vast improvement—even if it’s only a stopgap solution.
The delays that plagued the MAC’s renovation were directly related to the administration’s infatuation and preoccupation with Allston. And while the eventual expansion represents tremendous long-term possibilities, the development time-table spans several decades. The pressing needs of current students should never again take a backseat to fantasizing about the future. We hope these MAC renovations are a sign that in the duration of the planning process, Harvard will be more vigilant about the short-term needs of its existing student body.
But all in all, this is a time to celebrate a positive change and applaud the College for taking action. These renovations are not as skin-deep as a fresh coat of paint; the improvements to the MAC are real and considerable. They do the (student) body good—resting heart rates included.