Students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic campuses, including Prince Albert, are happy the institution has decided to re-open their gyms August 8, but the student union is still concerned about the long-term future of the health and recreational facilities.
There was anger and frustration among students following the controversial closure of the gyms in early June as part of the polytechnic’s review into the future of physical activity on campus. That review is spearheading a move towards what the college has called a ‘wellness strategy’ incorporating body, mind, life and community, and no longer including competitive sports.
“Students are excited about the gym's re-opening,” Justin Skwark, the president of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Student Association, told paNOW. "But we note the college saying this re-opening is a ‘temporary solution’ as it works towards their wellness strategy.”
Skwark said as students prepare for the new academic year they wanted to know for sure what sort of facilities they’ll be able to enjoy on campus ‘the sooner the better,” and there was still uncertainty.
“We’re still not sure what ‘temporary’ is and what will come of that,” he said.
On a more immediate level, he added the gyms needed to be clean and safe for students to use before the August 8 date and discussions were still underway with officials regarding how and when that could happen.
“Everything has been locked up for a couple of months now and you have to make sure things are cleaned up and ready to go,” Skwark said.
The gym closure in Prince Albert back in June left many students without an outlet for exercise, especially out-of-town trades students who had relied on the facility for their regular recreation.
At the time, Saskatchewan Polytechnic Provost Anne Neufeld said they were temporarily closing the gyms in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert because “equipment could go missing.”
The gyms will re-open as a “temporary solution” while the wellness strategy continues to develop, a release from the college said Monday.
Terence Carswell, associate vice president of human resources, said they’ve developed a “wellness steering committee” made up of students, faculty and administration to navigate their new direction. Among the first recommendations from the committee’s four meetings so far was to reinstate student access to the gyms.
However, he said there’s been no consideration of reinstating the college’s competitive sports teams.
“The athletics teams were something we had to make the decision that we were not going to be pursuing any further,” he said.
Carswell noted the committee is instead focusing on the four “dimensions of wellness” — mind, body, life and community.
He said the discussions include how to integrate existing services with the new strategy, as well as putting a focus on mental health and community events like Orange Shirt Day, an awareness campaign aimed at reconciliation.
Skwark told paNOW the union was concerned that the issue of reinstatement of the college’s competitive sports teams was never brought up at the Wellness Steering Committee.
“I don’t know how this is going to go, and why there would be a decision made for not considering having the sports teams come back, “ he said. “If we can’t get the athletics teams going that will be an issue.”
Another matter that hasn’t been resolved is the fate of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s intramural sports. The student union said in June they were blindsided by a meeting where the administration asked them to take over the organizing of intramural leagues.
The association said it wouldn’t enter into negotiations until the decision-making process over the wellness strategy was investigated — a demand first made by the college’s faculty association.
“Obviously (intramurals) will be something that may come up with the discussions of the wellness steering committee,” Carswell said. “But there haven’t been any recommendations so far.”
He added the committee is still in its fledgling stages.
“We’re really in the emerging stages of our wellness steering committee, and looking at more inclusion of faculty and students,” he said, noting a call for involvement will go out when classes resume in September.
With files from CKOM
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