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Just this past February, President Faust inaugurated “Harvard on the Move,” a community fitness program that intends to foster a culture of healthy living and exercise at Harvard. On the same theme, HUHDS regularly serves a wide variety of healthy options to allow students to make better dietary choices. Against this backdrop of fostering healthy lifestyles at Harvard, it is disconcerting that the administration may be closing certain House gyms due to their allegedly high maintenance costs.
Since these gyms are, in many cases, vital resources in House communities, students should not be reading about their potential closure in The Crimson first. The process of assessing their value must involve the entire House, as the primary clientele of these gyms—the students—know best whether their facilities are used and necessary. Even if a particular House gym is deemed too expensive to keep, the House Masters ought to be in a conversation with the students, looking for a workable solution that does not leave Houses with a missing vital asset.
Although the two other gym options—the Malkin Athletic Center and Hemenway Gymnasium—offer amenities unavailable anywhere else, they suffer from overcrowding and have limiting hours that make a visit to either one more of a challenge for busy students. The 24-hour House gyms, however, are fit to meet the needs of the students who frequent them. They’re almost always available, and you don’t feel as though you should have made a reservation months in advance. Also, as the frequent location of friendly in-House encounters, it should go without saying that House gyms foster community and are valuable social assets to those who use them.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that some gyms, perhaps those in Houses nearest the MAC, are superfluous and underutilized. We don’t deny that this could be the case. If so, however, House administrators should come to this conclusion through a conversation with students. If, for instance, the money to maintain a particular House gym is just not there, students may be willing to accept a subscription-based program like the one currently in place in Mather, where students pay $10 for a semester’s worth of access. In any case, gyms should not be closed unilaterally. If the College, as usual, is concerned about liability issues in the maintenance of these gyms, the administration ought to be open about its concerns and should work with students to minimize them.
In the event that certain gyms are eventually closed, the MAC will play a much larger part in some students’ lives. Accordingly, there should be more channels through which to offer suggestions and voice concerns about the MAC’s operations. Fewer House gyms will likely necessitate the need for more machines and, potentially, longer hours at the MAC. The College should be open to such suggestions.
Since all members of the Harvard community want a healthy, active student body, it is important that the administration not undercut this goal by closing House gyms without an appropriate conversation with students. Student wellbeing is vital to our community, and the College ought to make high-quality facilities for physical activity as accessible as possible.
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