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Students voice concerns over conditions in recreational facilities

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A student walks past the Student Recreation Center on Monday, June 26, 2023. The SRC is one of two recreation centers on UNC's campus.

At the UNC Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month, UNC Student Body President Chris Everett talked about the poor state of on-campus recreational facilities. He said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel that he doesn’t think there’s a good understanding of how bad the conditions are.

A survey conducted by UNC Campus Recreation this fall found that 86 percent of participants think recreational facilities are “too crowded.” Everett said with over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, it's hard for on-campus gyms to accommodate everyone. He also said broken equipment and small spaces add to the problem. 

“Generally speaking, the issue has been potentially from the institutional standpoint,” he said. “I think, especially for some of the trustees, there was an understanding facilities could be better.”

Graduate and Professional Student Government President Lauren Hawkinson attended the BOT meeting with Everett and said the first step in making improvements to University facilities is "paying attention."

“I’m very hopeful that they are now,” she said. “We got the attention of some people who can start to make some changes.”

UNC sophomore Isabel Marshall, who frequents the Student Recreation Center, said that going to either the SRC or Rams Head Recreation Center at the wrong time of day can double how long a student's visit has to be.

“It’s really discouraging to go because it’s just going to take so long,” she said. “If you go from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on a weekday, there will be a 10-plus person line for the squat and bench presses.”

She also said there are too many students for UNC to maintain just those two facilities as the primary campus gyms.

Jason Halsey, director of campus recreation, said that the entity is ready to look for long-term solutions to their facility needs while also trying to balance this evaluation with short-term projects. They’re currently working with Facilities Services on a project to increase the air circulation and airflow in the SRC, especially in the weight room area, he said.

“We want to be an accessible, inviting facility, and we know we're limited in what we can do on a large scale,” he said. “We're trying to make some small-scale changes until the environment is right to either renovate or build a new facility.”

Troy Blackburn, chair of the Department of Exercise and Sports Science, said maintaining on-campus facilities is supported by student fees.

The cost of labor and materials has increased, so the upkeep of those facilities is a challenge as the economy fluctuates, he said.

“I think ideally we get a robust plan for how we would financially support that expansion of the SRC and make sure that we have adequate funding for the continued routine maintenance of those spaces,” he said.

Blackburn, a UNC graduate, said he’s happy to see students advocating for changes that directly affect the student body. 

He said that Everett and Hawkinson have both advocated well for themselves and the student body when it comes to improving on-campus facilities. Anytime students speak their minds and speak the collective voice, advocacy goes a lot further than it can amongst faculty, he said.

He also said having adequate facilities where students can exercise and maintain cardiovascular health is critical to overall well-being and student success in the classroom. 

Moving forward, Hawkinson said students will have to be patient because it will take time and financial sacrifices on their part.

“If this is something that is really important to the student body, then it’s important that we let our voices be heard and let campus administrators, let the Board of Trustees, let the Board of Governors know,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we have a united advocacy for this change.”

For Everett, he said that accessibility is a huge part of his UNC experience.

“That was a real reason as to why I ran. There were so many ways in which our University could have been better. There were a lot of student concerns and just general issues that needed insight and needed visibility,” he said. “I want it to be a Carolina for everyone.”

@KamrynHai

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