USC Students Need A Better Place To Exercise
To be quite frank, the old health center looked like a combination between a hospital from Scooby-Doo and a mental ward. As a freshman with an immune system hopelessly under-equipped to handle living and sharing a bathroom with 40 other people, I have been sick more often in college than during any other time in my life.
However, I would never immediately go to the old health center when I felt myself coming down with something. I usually waited a week or two; in fact, I battled a sinus infection for two weeks until a quick Google search revealed that only antibiotics can cure one. (As an aside, if that piece of information helps even one person with a sinus infection, I think this article is a success). The old health center was just so incredibly unappealing that I refused to cross its threshold until I felt death upon me. The rooms felt stuffy and dank, and the whole placed smelled of ammonia. Many upperclassmen reassured me that going to the health center would, in fact, just make me sicker, and I believed them.
With the opening of the new Engemann Student Health Center, USC took a huge step forward in improving the general well-being and health of its student population. I came down with the flu and had no qualms visiting the pristine, open Engemann Center. The same competent doctors who had worked at the old place are still employed, but now there is a newfound trust between the students and the actual architecture. No one will look at the modern brick facade of the Engemann and think, “This place looks dilapidated and unfit to serve my health concerns.” If the placebo effect as well as multiple scientific surveys on human psychology and healing can teach us one thing, it is that a trusting human mind is an essential part of recovery. The students at USC will undoubtedly now feel much more comfortable putting their health into the hands of doctors at Engemann.
The improved focus on student’s health isn’t centered exclusively on recovery either. Although I was never around to experience the old EVK, I am told by trusted sources that the new EVK and its current meals are vastly improved. Judging from the many vegan and vegetarian dishes, the salad and fruit bar, and the never-ending flow of turkey burgers, EVK is now a veritable paradise for those who enjoy living the quintessential California lifestyle, while subject to the standards of a college cafeteria designed to feed thousands of people each day.
However, USC needs to consider revamping another important aspect of healthy living: exercise. The Lyon Center just isn’t up to the standards set by USC’s other health initiatives, nor the standards set by other universities. If this problem were to be fixed, both student health and the school’s reputation would improve.
Health centers are often selling points on college campus tours, but no intelligent USC tour guide would try to use the Lyon Center as their coup de grâce. Even at 66,000 square feet, the actual gym space seems cramped at best and impossibly overcrowded at worst. While all 37,000 students enrolled at USC may not work out at the Lyon Center, the facility is still clearly hopelessly unable to handle the demand of those students who do, who often grumble about not being able to get the machines or the weights that they want. The GymFlow app is clearly a response to this frustration, so that students can find a time to work out. However, for students as busy as many Trojans are, there may not be much room for flexibility in a work-out schedule.
In my opinion, this damming up of our resources is completely unacceptable, especially in light of the recent construction of the McKay Center for student-athletes. Athletes bring in huge revenue for the school and as the breadbasket of USC, they deserve pristine training facilities, but that does not mean that the common student can be overlooked. We are also bringing in money to the school, not only through tuition but also through donations we will make in the future (I can’t wait to get my first please-donate-back-to-your-alma-mater phone calls when I’m sitting on my throne of money USC helped build).
Additionally, compared to the facilities at other top-tier universities, USC’s are lackluster at best. Schools around the country have been unveiling new workout facilities or revamping their old ones to make them more spatially efficient and more aesthetically appealing. The University of Richmond recently opened their Weinstein Center, which won the 2008 National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Outstanding Sports Facility Award. When I was considering Richmond, I remember this being a huge draw for me, knowing that I would have a bright and open gym free to use at any time. They bragged that the gym had so many pieces of equipment that there was never a wait for any type of machine.
Although I’m sure this was a bit of propaganda, long lines and overcrowding seemed an unlikely problem in a 90,000 square foot facility at a school of 3,000 students. Crosstown rival UCLA also boasts a beautiful, expansive workout facility. A simple Yelp comparison demonstrates the disparity between us and them: We get a 1.5, and they have a 4.5. USC and UCLA have a healthy rivalry, so why not attempt to rival UCLA’s commitment to student health?
As college applicant pools grow more competitive, so do colleges’ strategies to recruit top-tier students. Any advantage that USC can get, it should take, especially as quality of students accepted continues to improve. If this means renovating or even just rebuilding the Lyon Center, so be it.
Reach Contributor Danny Galvin here.