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November 7, 2002

Faculty members want access to Baierl Center exercise facilities

In June, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg told Senate Council that only students — not faculty and staff — would be permitted to exercise at the Petersen Events Center’s new Bill Baierl Student Recreation Center, at least during the center’s first few months of operation.

But Nordenberg said Pitt employees might be allowed to use the Baierl Center if a study of student usage indicated that such a move would not cause over-crowding.

At Faculty Assembly’s request, University Senate President James Cassing now plans to ask Nordenberg for a status report on faculty/staff access to the Baierl Center.

At Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, economics professor Herbert Chesler said: “We have a responsibility to remind the chancellor that this is a pending issue.”

Faculty and staff want, need and deserve better on-campus exercise facilities than the ones currently available to them at Trees and Bellefield halls, said Chesler, who co-chairs the Senate’s benefits and welfare committee.

Contrary to the Assembly’s formal request last spring that employees be granted the same access as students to the Baierl Center, Chesler said his committee would accept limited hours for faculty and staff.

Patricia Friedman, of Falk Library, argued that giving employees access to the Baierl Center would encourage a sense of community here. “Providing places where the paths of faculty and students can naturally cross would not be a bad thing,” Friedman said. “It enhances the sense of community.”

But it may be premature to expect a status report on student usage of the Baierl Center because two key facilities — a 2,800 square foot multi-purpose room (to be used for martial arts classes) and a 2,400 square foot aerobic dance studio — haven’t opened yet, said Assembly member Marilyn Ross, co-director of Pitt intramurals.

“Once those rooms open up, we’ll have a lot more student usage of the Baierl Center,” Ross predicted. “Until then, I can’t give the senior administration complete usage numbers.”

The center has remained busy since its Sept. 4 dedication, she said. “Students aren’t waiting in line to use equipment anymore, but the center is fully used. Especially between 3 and 8 p.m., it’s completely packed,” Ross said.

In response to Assembly members’ complaints about old and poorly maintained exercise equipment at Trees and Bellefield halls, Ross commented: “We maintain those facilities to the best of our ability, given the available funding.”

Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, said yesterday that Chancellor Nordenberg had not yet received Faculty Assembly’s request for an update on Baierl Center access. “Until that request is received, we won’t be commenting,” Hill said.

Cassing said he plans to mention the issue to Nordenberg during the luncheon preceding the Nov. 11 meeting of Senate Council.

—Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 6

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