Students and employees concerned with Yates Field House

November 29, 2012

Every undergraduate at Georgetown pays $360 a year for a Yates Field House gym membership, but concerns about club access and the management system at the campus gym leave some wondering how good a value that price represents.

A persistent issue at Yates is reserving space for student groups. Student clubs and organizations receive scheduling preference over outside groups, according to Jim Gilroy, Director of Yates.

“To be quite honest, it’s almost exclusively student groups and organizations,” he said. “It could be anything from a club or sport teams to a graduate student organization to a biology class who wants to reserve a court to play a pickup basketball game.”

Student groups still must compete with each other for time slots, sometimes leaving clubs with inadequate practice time or subprime scheduling. The problem is particularly acute when it comes to the pool. “Compared to a lot of schools, we have a small pool, and I have 4 clubs and a varsity team to accommodate” Bower said. “So, we’ve had to give up some of the programming that’s been requested.”

Yates’s pool closes at 10 p.m., yet the rest of the facility remains open until midnight Monday through Thursday. “We close at 10 p.m. because of low usage at the end of the day, and the need to be fiscally attentive,” Gilroy wrote in an email. “Last year we agreed to stay open until 11 p.m. on Wednesdays to accommodate the water polo teams, and we paid for the lifeguard.” That practice ended when the team did not show up some weeks and failed to notify Yates in advance, which left the field house paying for an unneeded lifeguard.

One idea floated by a student employee (who preferred to remain anonymous for job security reasons) called for student groups to provide their own lifeguards after 10.

“Obviously most of the club swim team is lifeguard certified,” the employee said. “I wonder if they supplied their own lifeguard if they could stay open past 10.” Gilroy said that Yates would “certainly” be willing to discuss a club covering the cost of their own lifeguard.

Gilroy says Yates’s break-even budget is $5 million, with just more than half of it coming from undergraduate fees. “Of that, we have about 1,500 non-student members, and those memberships provide us with about a million dollars” said Gilroy. The approximately 7,500 undergraduates paying the mandatory subscription built into tuition provides about another $2.7 million.

Contributing to the high upkeep costs is a management system that employs four assistant directors and another four supervisors of the recreation center–positions which may be superfluous.

This management system has expanded considerably over time. “I wouldn’t say it’s modeled on any other gym, it just sort of developed” said Gilroy, who began working at Yates in 1980. “Whatever we had to do, we developed that way, added positions, and we are what we are today.”

Although student staff at Yates generally think highly of the managers, some see places to cut back.  “The managerial positions do not require much work on a minute-by-minute basis,” one student employee said, “so their presence is not always needed.”

Another employee echoed her co-worker’s sentiments. “I don’t know if I fully understand the management system,” she said. “I do feel like sometimes the managers may have a lot of downtime and there are a lot of redundant positions, with people kind of hanging around.” The employee pointed out that a manager got married, saying, “I don’t know if there is going to be a replacement for her, so was her position very important?”

Gilroy holds that Wednesday is the only day the gym is overstaffed. “It is the only day of the week when all the full-time staff are at Yates,” he wrote in an email. “Wednesdays are our staff meeting days, and the overlap also allows the managers from each shift to exchange information about what has been happening on each of their shifts.”

Perhaps contributing to the seemingly large number of managers is a lack of advancement potential for student employees.  “I don’t know if there is any way I can advance my position, instead of just working more hours,” said one of the employees. “I think it would be interesting if there were ways for students to move up in the system.”

Gilroy agreed that student employee mobility is an area which requires some improvement. “We do have Supervisor positions in the intramural department that our officials ascend to,” Gilroy wrote. “We have talked about this during our staff meetings, and we agree that we should be able to develop similar ‘levels’ throughout Yates that would give some students more responsibility and authority.”

“There are two managers that close at night, but could there be one and then a student that’s higher up? Maybe,” said one employee. “But you’re not leaving a student lifeguard in charge of Yates Field House.”

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