The outcry is growing louder over Saskatchewan Polytechnic's decision to axe sports programming and close its gyms. Scores of students in Prince Albert are rallying against the sudden move, which the college said was in favour of a more holistic 'wellness strategy.'
Third-year construction electrician student Jeff Takagi launched a petition on the P.A. campus this week calling for the gyms to reopen and for compensation to students for the loss of use of the recreation facilities, among other things. He said 57 students from various trades classes signed the document in just one day of petitioning, and many more students are unhappy.
“For some of the students here, we rely more heavily on the recreation services that are provided because we’re only here for two months of our program,” Takagi told paNOW. “For example, in my class only one of the 12 people are from P.A.”
Takagi said he rents a room in the city from Monday to Friday, then heads back to Saskatoon for weekends. While he's in P.A., Takagi said the recreation facilities are important to him.
“I don’t have access to any other recreation, and outside of the classroom I don’t know a lot of people," he said. "We’re kind of isolated that way.”
Takagi said he plans to keep collecting signatures throughout this week, and has already sent the early returns to Saskatchewan Polytechnic administrators.
The petition contains a number of requests, which students said will let the school show its support for the health and wellness of the student body. These include reopening the gym and workout room and reinstating recreation staff, compensating students for loss of use of the recreation facilities, appointing a student body representative to help develop the new wellness strategy, and apologizing to the students, instructors, and staff members affected.
In response to the concerns raised by the P.A. students, Saskatchewan Polytechnic Provost Dr Anne Neufeld said gyms would be part of the conversation about the new Wellness Program but she could not say when the fitness centre at the P.A. campus would re-open.
For privacy reasons she also could not say how many jobs in P.A. were associated with the seven total recreation staff layoffs campus wide.
Asked if the polytechnic had underestimated how students would react to the move Neufeld said “we knew some elements of it would not be popular” and that’s why the closures were announced in the summer session to impact the fewest students possible.
She added the term ‘wellness’ may not be something people understood.
“We‘ve described it as physical, mental, social and emotional; a holistic approach, and that’s language not everyone may be familiar with so we want to work with people to co-create what the new model will look like.”
She said the college can work with both the students association and their student advisory council on the path forward.
As for compensation for loss of use of recreation facilities in P.A. Neufeld said it was her understanding that the summer apprenticeship students were not charged a fee for access to the fitness centre.
Editor's note: this story was amended at 5:05 p.m, Thursday to add comment from Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
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