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Lifting weights and staying safe: re-imagining the Rec

As I walk up the long stretch of stairs to the Recreation Center (Rec), a staff member in a red t-shirt sprays and wipes the railings. Inside, there is caution tape where water fountains used to be. 

I walk up to the front desk and am greeted by an employee behind a wall of plexiglass. The sticker says, “Please Stand Here,” and as I do, a thermal temperature scanner takes my temperature. 

“97.7,” the machine says in a robotic voice. 

I scan my Miami ID and walk into the gym. The cardio floor is quiet; no feet pound on the treadmills. But as I walk down the winding staircase, there are many masked students lifting weights and using machines. 

Almost every machine is being used and students on benches stay inside a barrier of yellow tape. Some students walk to the next area with a rag and spray bottle in hand. 

Surprisingly, it is not a complete ghost town.

Executive Director of Recreation Services, Doug Curry, said the staff has created a protocol for reaching capacity levels throughout the facility. Staff are placed at doors when a section is full to direct students to another area of the Rec.  

“We’ve actually hit that mark a couple times,” Curry said. “It was actually a couple weeks ago when the upperclassmen came back who were off-campus. That was good for us to do … to have a protocol in place.”

Senior political science major Cameron Worthy has been regularly attending the gym since he’s been back in Oxford. He noticed the downstairs being very busy, despite new regulations. 

“I used to go earlier in the day, but it would be so busy that I couldn’t get on a machine,” Worthy said. “So I just go later in the day. There’s typically less people, and I can use what I want.”

The Rec has been implementing new protocols in order to remain open for the community. The staff has been following CDC, state of Ohio and Miami University guidelines.

“That sets the foundation for how we move forward,” Curry said. 

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Changes to the facility include a thermal temperature scanner upon entry, plexiglass barriers, a closing of the lockers and showers, requirements for masks to be worn at all times, spaced out equipment and installation of new touchless water stations. 

A group of student employees known as informal coordinators are dedicated to wiping down all touch-points every two hours, Curry said. 

Elizabeth Keith, associate director of customer and facility services, is impressed with how the student staff is handling changes. 

“As far as my student staff, they’ve handled everything we’ve thrown at them,” Keith said. “They’ve really handled everything incredibly well.”

A major change the facility has had since the start of the semester was a mask mandate, even while exercising. 

“Mask wearing has been, obviously, an adventure,” Keith said. “The rule was, you didn’t have to when you’re exercising, and then we said you did. That’s been an adjustment, just educating people on that process.”

Despite these adjustments, students and community members have been compliant with new regulations. 

“So far, the students and community members have been incredibly receptive,” Keith said. “Most folks have said, ‘Thank you for being open,’ which is really refreshing.”

Curry said change is inevitable during this transition and the staff has been integral in keeping the Rec open for students. 

“Change? It changes about every other day,” Curry said. “The thing I appreciate the most is staff being flexible, willing to adapt, willing to take on responsibilities that aren’t necessarily in their job description.”

Keeping the Rec open for students and keeping them safe is important to Curry and the staff. Though it seems hard to find community amidst campus changes, the Rec is dedicated to providing whatever programming it can in a safe way. 

“With a lot of the closures around campus, we look at ourselves as a hub for students,” Curry said. “We definitely want them to come in and use the facility in a safe manner. That’s been the goal all along.”