Saturday, May 26

The Quad: Low usage fails to justify 24-hour John Wooden Center

Workers at the John Wooden Center have been adjusting to its new 24-hour schedule, four days a week. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Workers at the John Wooden Center have been adjusting to its new 24-hour schedule, four days a week. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the John Wooden Center usage data had not been released. In fact, the data was released Feb. 16.

At long last, you can now gym at 3 a.m. to your heart’s content.

After much adjustment on the behalf of FITWELL and UCLA Recreation, the John Wooden Center is now open 24 hours a day for four days of the week. For those of you not in the know, this move was prompted last spring by the passing of the Social Justice Referendum, an omnibus referendum which included the proposal that the Wooden center would be open 24 hours a day during the week.

The referendum called for “the promotion of social justice efforts, including programs and services that further community service involvement, college preparation, student health and retention efforts and cultural, spiritual and LGBTQ events by increasing student fees by $24.99 per undergraduate student per quarter, including summer.”

Those behind SJR aimed to increase funding for a variety of outreach programs, including a number of groups affiliated with the Community Programs Office.

One of the ways this referendum caught everyone’s attention was the pitch to keep the Wooden center open on a 24-hour basis.

To a first-year student who has never paid student fees before coming to UCLA, this $25 per quarter increase may mean little. However, due to the exchange rates that accompany being an international student and my lack of interest in all things sports- and gym-related, the fee did bother me – even if only $1.75 of it is allocated towards keeping the gym open.

As students, it is our right to know whether our investments are being put to the best use. I was also curious to find out what the students who worked the overnight shift thought about working the entire night and going to classes the next day.

With this in mind, I decided to go down to the Wooden center at 2:30 a.m. on a chilly Tuesday night of second week to see for myself what the hype was all about.

Seeing three workers and an empty gym was an early indication of the implementation of this change. The staff, however, seemed to have a positive attitude toward this new in work schedule.

Maya Ervin, a first-year communications student and one of the front desk workers, said it wasn’t such a bad job.

“We usually just sit around all night, do our job assigned to us by our supervisor, but it’s definitely not much,” she said. “It’s a good time to get done with our laundry and catch up with our readings.”

Robert Nguyen, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, also works at the Wooden center.

“Not many people use the gym at night – maximum six people,” he said. “Some people prefer to work out at night when the gym is not crowded. And it’s mostly regular students who don’t get time during the day who come here at night, as opposed to athletes.”

It’s understandable why some dance groups prefer to practice in the studios at JWC as they would be safe and regulated, rather than in parking lots which may be unsafe at odd hours of the night.

Before the referendum passed, dance group members said that they would use the gym as late as 3 a.m. if it were available to them.

Now that the measure is in effect, the Dancesport Club at UCLA stated in an email that many of their dancers would find the extra late night hours helpful for training for competitions. The Indian dance group UCLA Nashaa also wrote in an email that they usually have our practices from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and that they’ve been using JWC until 3 a.m. in the week before their competitions.

Despite the fact that the majority of student voters supported the referendum, keeping the gym open 24 hours feels like an inefficient use of student fees to me, especially as demonstrably few people use it on a regular basis. The entire undergraduate class has to pay more money for just six people per night to use these facilities. Since dance groups are in favor of using the studios at JWC, why not only keep the studios open on a 24-hour basis with bookings made in advance?

However, seeing the positive perspectives of the employees on this operation, it does make me give the benefit of the doubt to this change. Given the fact that this operation has just been put into action this quarter, it might take time for it to pick momentum up among the student body. The Wooden center usage data during night hours was released Thursday.

It’s still early in the implementation of the new measure, but for me, allocating funds to keep John Wooden Center functional 24 hours a day is not worth it when the facilities are not even being used to their full capacity.

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Sanah Mehta is a Daily Bruin Quad contributor. Being an international student, she likes to write about her personal experiences related to UCLA and life back home, drawing parallels between the two!

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