On many occasions, The Hatchet sympathizes with the concerns of Foggy Bottom residents regarding University expansion. This is often offset, however, when a small group of residents lodge complaints that border on absurdity and serve no purpose other than to negatively affect student life. The recent fight between the University and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission over extended Health and Wellness Center hours highlights yet another Foggy Bottom Association objection with little merit that further discredits legitimate resident concerns.
The University is seeking later hours for the Health and Wellness Center, which is currently required to close by 10 p.m. University counsel argues that longer hours will serve a dual purpose – allowing students with busy schedules to exercise at later hours and helping to foster greater cooperation with the community by offering memberships to area residents. Retreating to their usual platitude, the FBA claims that the increased noise associated with extended business hours will alter Foggy Bottom’s quiet neighborhood character. However, the recognizable facts in this case point to a decidedly different outcome.
Since its construction, the Health and Wellness Center has never generated a significant amount of noise, as students are not known to congregate out front in any number. Furthermore, with the 729-bed Ivory Tower directly across the street and Townhouse Row nearby, the majority of student traffic in the area is hardly attributable to the exercise facility.
Given these facts, it is unlikely that extending its hours would lead to any disturbance for area residents. By increasing the center’s hours, it is likely that there would be a lower concentration of students at the gym at any one time. Extending hours would be more a service for students with schedules prohibiting them from exercising during normal business hours than an incentive for all students to put off exercising until 12 midnight.
The controversy over extending Health and Wellness Center hours is another instance of a few neighborhood residents sending the wrong message to students. Instead of going after big-picture issues, such as forcing the University to submit a comprehensive plan for development rather than continuing construction ad hoc, residents continue pursuing frivolous issues that seem targeted at students. Instead of continuing down this path, the FBA should concentrate on forging a new relationship with the University that will ensure that legitimate resident concerns are addressed, while allowing for a vibrant student life environment.