Tarrant weight room raises student concerns

By Matt Heller

Photography Editor


An out of order sign is taped to the selectorized chin and dip machine while Chris Bittel, 19, does pullups in the Tarrant Recreation Center weight room on Sunday, Feb. 10 (Matt Heller)

On a normal weekday, Matt Demmler ’21 will go to the gym around 3 p.m. While he doesn’t mind a crowd, he does get frustrated when there are not enough benches and squat racks, among other equipment. He also wishes he could use the cable machine, but that has been out of order for the much of the past two school years.

“This is my sophomore year, second semester. Some of the stuff that’s been broken since my first semester freshman year is still broken,” Demmler said.

Demmler, of Wellesley, Mass., said he gets excited to go home to use a “functional” gym where he doesn’t worry about getting injured.

The weight room, part of the $5 million Jeremiah J. and Kathleen C. Tarrant Student Recreation Center, was dedicated in October of 1994.

This past September, Chris Johnson ’21 voiced his concern about the weight room through a Facebook post to the Saint Michael’s College Class of 2021 page. Johnson alluded to the faulty seated calf machine. “My buddy almost broke an ankle on the sitting calf machine because the seat isn’t even attached,” said Johnson in the post.

Chris Johnson, 19, adds a 45 lb. plate to a bench rack in the Tarrant Recreation Center weight room on Monday, Feb. 4 (Matt Heller)

Preventative maintenance is done twice a year, according to Brian Lang, Director of Internal Athletic Operations. Lang said that faulty equipment is put on a list to be addressed during the semi-annual maintenance, but emergency maintenance may be needed for heavily-used equipment or if a lot of machines stop working. While the primary allocation is the Tarrant weight room, the process also applies to the Dion fitness center, opened in 2013, and the varsity weight room, opened in 2012.

On a recent Friday, multiple machines were out of order including, the selectorized chin and dip machine, the cable machine, a leg press machine, and a treadmill.

Both Johnson and Demmler mentioned the lack and ineffectiveness of pins and clamps. Pins, which are placed to determine how much weight will be lifted on the machine, are usually allocated to a single machine via a small cord. Many of the pins in the Tarrant weight room, however; are not allocated to a single machine, and some don’t fit properly to the machine they are placed in.

Spring clips are used to support weight plates on barbells. Demmler is concerned that some of the clips in the Tarrant weight room do not serve their purpose. “A lot of the clamps are really bent and out of shape and not tight at all… plates will just fall off. That could cause serious injury,” he said.

According to Lang, 20-30 student employees work with the Tarrant weight room. Their main job is to sign people into the gym, assuring that they are St. Michael’s students, staff, faculty, or approved military personnel. They are encouraged to clean but have no specific cleaning duties. Janitors mop the floors, but do not touch the equipment. Cleaning wipes are available to gym users, but Lang is working to create a system where certain parts of the gym would be cleaned at certain times throughout the day by student employees. Additionally, he would like to see the return of rags and towels to the cleaning process, stating it would be a greener option.

“Gym cleanliness and the condition of equipment sets the tone and attitude of the environment,” said Sara Franco, an athletic trainer and a co-owner of 802Crossfit in Essex Junction. In an email, she highlighted the importance of cleanliness and the condition of equipment.

“When our environment is well kept, we take pride in it.  When things are run down, we feel run down.” She added, “Each member knows the order in which things are put away, and they are put away the exact same way every time. Simple acts such as these make it so that the next person wants to put things back in an orderly fashion.”

In the Tarrant weight room, as part of the mid-year plan, weight plates were replaced, and machines or benches with rips will be reupholstered. Lang also mentioned that a work order has been placed to remove some broken equipment.

Regarding the purchase of new weight plates, Demmler commented, “New plates is a good first step…but it’s not what the gym needs immediately in terms of changes.”

Although Lang does not have statistics regarding the use of the Tarrant facilities, he did say that gym use has increased. A study by NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, shows that about 75 percent of U.S. students use on-campus recreation centers and programs. According to Statista, gym membership in the U.S. rose from 32.8 million memberships in 2000 to 60.87 million in 2017.

“No one was prepared for this increase in health and wellness. To be honest, it’s the best thing that could happen for our society,” said Lang. “People are just more health-conscious than they were historically. This gym was built with that old philosophy in mind…We have to start at the basics, replace everything, make it start from the baseline and then work our way up,” he said.

“I just hope they can fix it, and therefore that might attract more students to go to the gym and be healthy, be in a healthy state of mind,” Demmler said. “It is kind of depressing to go to a gym with a lot of old stuff, and if we are trying to promote mental health, a good gym, a new gym, would be a really good first step.”

Chris Johnson, 19, deadlifts in the Tarrant Recreation Center weight room on Monday, Feb. 4 (Matt Heller)