Despite the school year looking differently due to the emergence of COVID-19, Penn State University has been hard at work making it possible for its students to feel a little bit of normalcy during these unprecedented times. From in-person classes, to the HUB and Pattee and Paterno Libraries, to even simply certain buildings and study rooms, these spaces are open for students to continue to utilize with a few minor changes and new COVID-19 guidelines.
When it comes to fitness and other physical activities students are usually free to partake in, Penn State Campus Recreation now has a system using time slots that allows students to sign up for 75-minute sessions. While some special areas like the IM climbing wall, spin bike/ab, the indoor turf, racketball and squash are unavailable, the IM Fitness Center and IM Gyms 1, 2 and 3 are open for weights and cardio. Table tennis and badminton/pickleball are available for singles, but their popularity seems to pale in comparison to time slots for weights and cardio.
IM split up its areas, meaning a time slot for free weights doesn’t allow access to machines. With White Building being used for COVID-19 testing, Hepper Fitness Center in Rec Hall is the third and last gym on campus. The sign-up struggles start to really show when it comes to Hepper. Being the only gym that offers full access to all the machines, free weights and cardio, Hepper’s time slots fill up fast.
Current Sign-up System: The Rundown
Sign-ups for time slots open up 48 hours in advance, and there are 21 spots available per the allotted time slot. They are usually gone within a minute, so being prepared is key. You have to be ready to go, signed into your account and refreshing the page. Unfortunately, even when you’ve done everything right on your end, it still may not work out. The page often crashes and freezes due to the number of students trying to sign-up at the same time and clicking to reserve their spot.
VALLEY has spoken with several students regarding the issue at hand and it seems they’ve come to a consensus. Here are two potential ways that Penn State could implement to make the system easier, more accessible and fair.
1. Capping Weekly Gym Spots
Enforce a max number of times an individual can sign up for a lot per week. Although students can only sign up for one time slot a day, they are able to sign up for as many slots as they want per week. By limiting the number of times students can sign up for slots each week, it allows for more students to have the opportunity to sign-up and go.
2. Raffle System
Create a raffle system at the beginning of each week where students can submit time slots they would like to go. The system can generate accordingly in a way so that as many students can go as possible. For example, Person A says they can go at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Person B can only go at 3 p.m. Person A will then get assigned to 5 p.m. so that Person B can go at their only available time, 3 p.m.
Bottom line, the current system is slow and slots are taken fast, meaning there are more students than slots. Even with the vaccine, things may never go back to our version of “normal.” If a system still needs to be in place next fall, maybe Penn State can think about making some changes to allow for more students to take a break from academics and get a good workout in.