Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief
It’s been a month since the long-awaited opening of the new crown-jewel of Jacksonville State University’s campus, JSU’s new Recreation and Fitness Center.
All University channels paint a well-deserved pride in the opening of the facility, praising the versatility the RFC provides for Gamecock students.
“The center is a game-changer for the university, both as a recruitment tool for future students and as a hub of campus life for current students. More than a place to exercise, the center serves as a gathering space for students – featuring an outdoor patio, video game lounge, ping-pong tables, snack bar and study areas.”
That’s how Jacksonville State University’s new Recreation and Fitness Center is described by the University in a press release announcing the opening of the brand new social center.
“We in University Recreation are very excited for JSU students,” Joanna Prociuk, Director of University Recreation at Jacksonville State said about the opening. “The Rec Center will become the prime location for students to hangout, build relationships, relax, and be active while on-campus.”
But how do the students feel?
With students having access to the Recreation and Fitness Center since the soft opening on January 14, the perception of the Rec Center has had the chance to be re-evaluated by the primary target of the facility.
A survey conducted by The Chanticleer finds that, after the opening of the RFC, the majority of the are happy with the new facility, despite some concerns about the operation of the facility still remaining.
Of the participants who responded to the survey, 75.8 percent said they had a positive or highly positive view of the new facility, and 58.6 percent said that their feelings toward the rec center became more positive after experiencing the amenities for themselves.
“I think it’s an awesome addition to the campus!” one anonymous participant commented. “People complain about the fee but I think it’s somewhat reasonable for what all it has to offer.”
While the excitement around the opening of the RFC is certainly echoed by some students around campus and is evidenced by the droves of people that can be found utilizing the new space at most hours of the day, the new center has been subjected to its fair share of detractors in the student body.
The Recreation and Fitness Center has been mired in controversy and unrest amongst some conflicted students since the conception of the plans.
The decision by the university to implement a mandatory fee for students to help fund the rec center has been called into question by some since plans were first announced for the new facility back in January of 2017. Jacksonville State Students are now required to pay a $190 fee per semester to pay for the Rec Center.
Despite the overall positive outlook, the mandatory fee still seems to be a hang-up for many.
Of the responders, 47.1 percent said their feelings toward the mandatory fees were negative.
“If it wasn’t a $190 fee, I may feel less negatively,” one student said. “But for that much, I can join a regular gym and pay monthly rather than all at once.”
The fee, whether too high or just not worth it for students who are uninterested in using the facility, gives many reservations. 74.7 percent of surveyed students said that they would either be unlikely to pay the fee to receive access to the facility or that they were unsure if they would, while just 25.3 percent said the benefits of using the RFC outweighed the cost.
“I think the students should have the option to pay the fee or not,” a JSU senior majoring in Finance commented. “I will be using the RFC at least 5 days a week, so I think it’s an amazing price for all that is offered. I just know many students will probably not use it one time (especially commuters/online only students). So, there should be a different option for those students.”
Most students share a similar view that the fees themselves are not unreasonable, but the inability to opt out of them is a problem, especially for students who will not be using the RFC very often.
“I think a fee is perfectly acceptable,” said a senior pre-nursing major. “I disagree that it should be mandatory for online students who may not even have the opportunity to use it. The fact that students who will never use the center (for whatever reason) have to pay for it will always be a point of contention. I think JSU will eventually have to address that part of it.”
Some students have even questioned the need for the facility at all, with upgrades and improvements seemingly needed at other buildings on campus.
“I believe this was an unnecessary build that the students were forced to pay for,” said one responder. “There were greater priorities than building a new fitness center. There are many buildings on campus that still have not even been touched after being damaged by the tornado. I think the campus priorities should be revisited and we as the students should not be forced to pay for these. Because of this I have been deterred from completing additional degrees through this school.”
The disastrous tornado of March 19, 2018 further sullied the population’s feelings toward the RFC, as it was no longer the only location on campus with droves of construction workers, fences and equipment surrounding its perimeter.
Still other students raised additional legitimate concerns about the Recreation and Fitness Center in their comments.
“I think the fee should have been announced to incoming freshmen,” said one comment. “Everyone talked about the new Rec center and how it was going to be like UAB’s rec center on tours but never mentioned a mandatory fee (UAB doesn’t have one), which makes the rec center more negative, especially for people who can’t make it to classes and work out on their own.”
The university, however, did take into account the opinions of students throughout the process of designing, building, and implementing fees for the RFC.
“When I arrived to JSU in April 2018 I was immediately impressed by how closely JSU administrators listened to students in the design of the facility,” Prociuk says. “Students and Student Government have been involved in the planning, fee decision, and decision-making process for the Recreation and Fitness Center since the project’s beginning in 2016. Input from thousands of students was collected via surveys, focus groups, and meetings.”
Prociuk says that the University is listening to the concerns of students, and encourages all forms of feedback as the RFC continues to serve students.
“We will continue to work with students as we expand our programs and operations,” Prociuk says. “I’d encourage students to continue to voice their opinions about all of campus life to their representatives in Student Government. Student Government is well positioned to advocate on their behalf.”