Editorial: Tufts must champion student health by improving non-varsity athletics facilities

In 2012, Tufts finished construction on the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center. Although undergraduate enrollment has increased over the past eight years, the university has not expanded its facilities to accommodate the fitness needs of the growing student body. Thus, the limited resources in the gym do not currently meet student demand; many students cite a lack of adequate space for non-varsity athletes, equipment issues and a shortage of cubbies as hindrances to exercising. Physical activity is key to maintaining a healthy mind and body, vital for the academic and personal success of college students. As a student-centered institution, Tufts must allocate more resources towards its non-varsity athletics facilities to promote student well-being and allow all students access to a healthy lifestyle. 

Before even attempting to exercise, students encounter a shortage of resources; the often limited storage space makes it difficult to securely store personal belongings, including jackets, backpacks and phones. Although the athletic facilities provide a locker room to hold students’ items, many gym-goers are not even aware this resource exists. However, these lockers do not appear to be particularly viable options anyways, for they are tiny, old, dilapidated and rusty, and students must undergo an inconvenient, time-consuming lock check-out process. This inadequate system leads students to use the cubbies next to the gym, but this resource proves deficient as well; the cubbies are often full, causing the waiting area to become chaotic as students try to find a spot for their belongings.

“I am worried someone is going to steal my items when I have to throw my jacket on the ground because there is no place to put it,” first-year Alexa Brown said.

Further, students who leave items scattered outside of storage spaces run the risk of losing their belongings or having them taken. This poses a significant issue considering some students exercise to relieve anxieties, yet worries about the security of belongings counteract this goal by creating an additional stressor. 

The shortage of equipment acts as another obstacle that prevents students from exercising. Many students, especially in the winter months, attend the gym to run on the treadmills; however, these students may often find themselves waiting for up to 30 minutes to access an available treadmill. Additionally, many treadmills commonly are out-of-order or unplugged — problems that the university could easily remedy by assigning specific staff to ensure that machines are plugged in and repaired in a timely matter. It is not only treadmills, however; equipment such as ellipticals, cable rows and weight machines often do not function properly, and students also face a waiting time for gym resources such as bench presses and mats.

First-year AJ Arbuckle reflected on these issues, stating that “oftentimes, I go to the gym and certain equipment I want to use is taken up. There is a shortage, and I just can’t do the exercises I want to do.”

The gym should be a stress-free environment where students can take full advantage of facilities, not a place where they must sacrifice valuable time to the equipment waiting game. Long wait times at the gym mean that students have to allocate a larger portion of their schedule to exercise, making it especially difficult for busier students to incorporate exercise into their weekly routine and thus live healthier lifestyles.

Tufts can remedy many of these issues with simple fixes, and they must do so to support the health of its student body. To address the lack of storage space for personal items and associated stress of the cubby system, Tufts should revitalize the non-varsity locker room. Tufts must also ensure the functionality of the aforementioned gym equipment such as treadmills and workout machines and add additional mat space, benches and exercise machines; this way, Tufts optimizes space in its athletic facilities and validates the needs of its student body. These changes are vital to ensuring that all students can access the resources needed to live a healthy lifestyle, vital for the current and future wellness of all students.