Henry Crown nearly inhumane

By David Svolba

I am not in the habit of publicizing my rants, but feel compelled to do so on behalf of the thousand or so students each day courting heat exhaustion in what our beloved university mockingly calls a “gymnasium.”

I am of course speaking of that small percentage of U of C students who, lacking the natural or principled aversion to exercise that characterizes the majority of their fellows, open the oven doors and enter Henry Crown Fieldhouse during these summer months.

Henry Crown Fieldhouse is a travesty. It fails to serve the fundamental purpose of a university gymnasium, which is to provide members of the university community a suitable environment in which to engage in all manner of physical exercise. Far from providing such an environment, the current conditions are wretched and inhibit all manner of exercise. After a workout one leaves this building with something close to spiritual exhaustion.

I should make it clear that my understanding of “suitable conditions” is not unrealistic. In fact, it is based on the following modest proposal: However we understand the finer points of “suitability,” we can at least agree that the gymnasium should not be hotter than it is outside on a hot summer’s day. The rationale for this is straightforward: the gymnasium should be a place we can exercise year round, a place we can go when the elements forbid outdoor exercise. Gymnasiums should therefore maintain safer and more comfortable climates than what nature sometimes affords. Anyone who has stepped inside Henry Crown within the past few days will confirm that it has been much hotter inside than outside.

But what truly boggles my mind is not the heat. The heat is due to design flaws such as the lack of adequate ventilation. As a result, the University is doing now what it should have done years ago—building a new gymnasium. No, what truly boggles my mind is the apparent lack of concern on the part of the university to make the best of this bad situation. There should be industrial sized fans everywhere; today I counted three, none on the second level. Three fans would be adequate for my apartment; they are woefully inadequate for a building of Henry Crown’s size.

But by far the most offensive feature of this gymnasium, the feature that makes it not only uncomfortable but also inhumane, is the lack of functioning water fountains (the requirement that students pay a “towel fee” runs a close second). There are three water fountains on the second floor. One simply doesn’t work. Another provides a steady stream of water roughly the temperature of urine. The third provides a trickle of only slightly cooler water. Downstairs the situation is not much better. Two fountains provide a trickle, a third a steady stream of water that can provide some measure of relief to a desperate and dehydrated man. This is abominable. This is dangerous. This is one stroke away from criminal negligence.

The only possible explanation for the present conditions is that Henry Crown, whose money, presumably, was at one time the sine qua non of this sweatbox, was a wealthy sadist in search of a legacy. I await either information to that effect or some response from the University as to what, if anything, will be done about this.

David Svolba is about to begin his fourth year as a graduate student in the Department of Philosophy. He is susceptible to bouts of dehydration and bitterness. He can be reached at dmsvolba@midway.uchicago.edu.