The Boston University Fitness and Recreation Center opened its doors, again, to students Friday. For its reopening, the center is continuing to take all possible precautions to be COVID-19 safe as it did last semester.
On top of normal mask-wearing and social-distancing policies, FitRec will be open to only students, rather than the general public. Reservations for time slots must be made at most three days in advance, and students must show their Healthway green badges before entering.
Gyms have been proven to be low risk for COVID-19 transmission, so students are not very concerned about visiting FitRec as long as they practice social distancing within the facility and properly clean their equipment.
The reopening is a source of positivity — not only is having this resource beneficial for students’ mental and physical health, but it is doubly as important to be open in the winter when it’s too cold to exercise outdoors. Physical activity has been linked to improved mental health and stress relief, which is crucial during a pandemic.
For students who prefer to workout in spaces other than their dorms, having a clean, monitored and student-only space on campus is also much safer for them and their community.
Overall, it is an incredibly important resource for overall well-being, providing students with a sense of normalcy and an incentive to leave their rooms.
Furthermore, FitRec allows students who work there to keep their jobs. Now that other workspaces such as the Tsai Performance Center have stopped hosting events or are closed, reducing the number of jobs available, FitRec’s reopening helps bring more jobs back to campus.
However, FitRec’s reopening brings up an interesting point about our societal and cultural prioritization of athletics.
Nationally, we have allowed sports to continue competing. Though the Super Bowl had limited seating, there were still 25,000 fans present and parade celebrations in Tampa Bay, Florida after the game.
It is also well-known that funding for public schools in the United States consistently prioritizes sports over academics and arts, and the pandemic has only emphasized the gap.
Last semester, high school winter sports resumed in Massachusetts despite the number of cases peaking in the state. Additionally, team sports have been proven to contribute to the spread of the virus.
And at the collegiate level, conferences such as the Patriot League — which BU competes in — have greenlighted games for the 2020- 21 season despite college sports being responsible for more than 6,600 national cases last year.
The league has postponed games due to COVID-19 cases, but has continued play besides that. And although BU athletes “wear” masks when competing, there is undoubtedly risk with such close contact to players outside of the BU bubble.
Meanwhile, classes are all hybrid or remote. A majority of student club meetings have been pushed online. And performing arts — such as theater, dance, chorus, band and comedy — have adapted to virtual or, if the weather allows, outdoor and socially distanced practices and gatherings.
While collegiate sports admittedly follow different structures and rules than student organizations — for example, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s policies and obligations of athletic scholarships — the resumption of in-person sports while virtually every other extracurricular has been halted or modified is indicative of our culture’s disproportionate emphasis on athletics.
FitRec’s reopening is timely and beneficial, and we can’t ignore how great it is to have this facility available to us once again. But it also serves as another example of how athletics — whether justly or unjustly — are prioritized in our society.
Given that in-person classes and FitRec’s reopening in the Fall semester have all been successful, BU should now use the gym as a blueprint for reopening other recreational areas or expanding common spaces under state guidelines.