Faculty, students discuss ‘lack of communication’ of new recreation, fitness center

Delaney Hassell, News Manager

With Moon Township approving the development of the new RMU Student Recreation and Fitness Center, construction has begun at the North Athletic Complex and will continue for the next eight months.

“Competition Drive, the existing Athletic Pavilion, and Tennis Courts are closing until the Student Recreation and Fitness Center opens in August, 2017,” according to the email from Colonial Central.

Moon Township Monthly said in an email, “At the January Board of Supervisors Meeting, the board approved the development for the new Robert Morris University Recreation Center.”

This announcement came before that of the new UPMC Events Center on Jan. 19, which is included with the recreation and fitness center for a $50 million project.

After a Nov. 1 SGA meeting, the student body and student organizations were made aware of the new recreation center. This was also the time that representatives of the student groups voted on raising tuition $125 per semester for resident, undergraduate students and $60 per semester for commuters for the use and upkeep of the facility. With 60 approvals, 12 nos, and four abstains, the fee will be added to all student’s tuition.

Heather Pinson, department head of communication, was unaware of the university’s plans to build the new recreation center until the students in SAFE, the Student Alliance for Equality and the group for which she is a faculty leader, brought it up in a club meeting.

“(M)y LGBT group for SAFE brought me a very glossy print for our new student recreation center and said, ‘We want to know what thoughts (you have) and we can discuss this as a group.’ And I said, ‘What rec center?’” said Pinson.

It’s just how the information was delivered was through the students.

— Heather Pinson

“It’s just how the information was delivered was through the students. Because there was a vote held for SGA… for all the student groups on campus—for which there are many—to vote to have a fee,” said Pinson. “The students were asked if they would be willing to discuss such a vote with their groups—with their student organizations—and bring back any concerns or questions… to SGA.”

Pinson was not the only faculty member that said she was unaware of the university’s plans to build this new facility. Multiple RMU faculty members have also stated that they were not told of a new recreation and fitness center.

According to Mark Houser, director of news and information, the university didn’t plan to officially announce the plans for the recreation and fitness center to everyone, including faculty and staff, until just recently.

“Because the student recreation and fitness center is an essential part of a broader $50 million plan to build the UPMC Events Center, the decision was made to officially announce both of those new buildings together at the Jan. 19 news conference,” said Houser in an email interview.

Pinson said the students liked being able to vote because they felt like they had a say in something, but they expressed more than just a vote with President Howard there with him listening to what their needs were in November.

“The students said they also voiced that they have other priorities other than a rec center. Such as dormitories… and classroom space, anything to computer labs, biology labs, and we’re given a good chance to talk with President Howard,” said Pinson.

Many students, including Michelle McGuire, Co-President of SAFE, think that multiple things could have been built or updated before a new recreation center was built.

“I’m not necessarily happy that a rec center was the first thing that people like the campus thought was the best decision. I, for one, think that some of our academic buildings need a lot of help,” said McGuire.

Houser stated that the RMU leadership watches over the needs of the campus community and organizes plans with the Board of Trustees. Overall, it was the board that approved the plan for the facility, with support from President Howard.

“The need for a student recreation and fitness center has been under consideration for several years. Of course, academics comes first, which is why three new academic buildings for SBUS, SCIS, and SNHS have been opened since the fall of 2011,” said Houser. “Campus housing also has been expanded dramatically in recent years, and will continue to be a priority.”

Overall, faculty like Pinson that represent the university and students like McGuire that are involved in student groups feel that there the university is not the best at informing its students, faculty, and staff about important projects.

“Yet again the lack of communication on this campus—again, and again, and again. It systemic. And whenever you don’t have communication, that’s when rumors fly. That’s when misinformation is spread, rather than correct information,” said Pinson. “And that’s when a mistrust starts to facilitate among those that work and represent the university.”

Yet again the lack of communication on this campus…

— Heather Pinson

“I also would just like… having us informed a little bit earlier about this kind of stuff. Just because… my SGA representative, DJ, and one of our other officers, actually an SGA representative for another group, they both knew about it like months before we did and so it was kind of like being slammed all at once,” said McGuire.

Pinson stated that she hopes there will be “good intentions” toward making RMU a better institution and the recreation will be a place where students can feel complacent, workout and spend time in. She also understands the needs of the facility will be directed toward student life and athletics.

The Student Recreation and Fitness Center is set to open by August 2017 and the UPMC Events Center is planning to open January 2019.