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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Take fiscal responsibility now for Nat update

Natatorium Entrance

Take fiscal responsibility now for Nat update

You may not be able to tell from my relatively scrawny physique, but I spend quite a bit of time at the SERF. And I keep coming back despite seeing little in the way of results. School is stressful. So is working 30 hours a week at a newspaper for no pay. Doing some cardio and weight training at UW's recreational facilities helps ease a bit of that stress. And while my physical gains are minimal, it does a lot to keep me sane.

So I can understand why people often complain about overcrowding at the SERF, its sister facility the Natatorium and its red-headed stepbrother facility, the Shell. Arriving at the gym only to find every machine occupied doesn't help you physically or mentally. Thus plans to renovate and expand the Nat emerged in the campus master plan, which would alleviate some of the problems students experience currently. Then the NatUP 2010 campaign started up with the goal of promoting the new Natatorium project for an upcoming student vote of approval this year, with the project scheduled to be completed in 2014. It's hard to disagree with their claims that a new facility is needed. However, financial aspects of the plan raise some moral concerns.

Now a little patience and respect for gym etiquette can solve a lot of overcrowding problems. But as NatUP 2010 member Mike Bernatz pointed out in an interview, demand for these facilities is constantly rising along with Nat usage, increasing 16 percent from 2007 to 2008. We'll almost assuredly see an even greater increase after the completion of new Lakeshore dorms. Gym etiquette can only get you so far when 2,000-4,000 new Lakeshore residents create a line out the door to use equipment.

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Put simply, while the Nat may be a perfectly well-constructed building, supply will not be able to keep up with demand. Expanding the Nat is the only viable option UW has. The SERF has no room to expand unless you build a floating anti-gravity gym above it. There is no centrally-located downtown parcel that can be used for construction, and all other land on the Lakeshore either holds a dorm or a protected forest.

Expanding the Nat on its current location is both needed and logical, even at the $60-65 million price tag it would cost. So the problem is why the university and NatUP 2010 feel the need to sugarcoat the idea even further. The project would raise segregated fees $56 per student, and in order to raise support from a voting bloc that complained vigorously when UW tried to do the same thing with Union South a few years back, they decided not to raise segregated fees until the fall of 2013, when the students who will actually use the new Nat are on campus.

This may seem fair to students graduating in the next couple years. Why should they have to pay for something they will never get to use? But on the flip side, how fair is it to ask future generations of students to foot the bill for something we aren't willing to pay for?

Bernatz claimed that looking into the future is an essential task for students, saying ""Where would this campus be if chancellors, professors and students didn't stand up and speak for future students?"" He emphasized that at some point somebody needs to step up and make long-term investments in this campus, or nobody will.

But we aren't really standing up for anything. With this financial plan, we stand to lose nothing. Nobody who votes will be forced to make that all-important cost-benefit decision, ""Will the Nat be worth what I'm paying?"" Effectively, NatUP 2010 is taking all of the hard decisions away from us, and progress requires hard decisions.

I'm not against new construction. But we should be willing to accept the costs of progress. The new Nat plan is a good one, but no matter how good the plan is, forcing others to take on the responsibility while we walk off scot-free should not be tolerated.

Todd Stevens is a junior majoring in history and psychology. Please send all responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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