Guest Column - May 2008
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What About the Students?

Community Usage of Campus Recreation Facilities

By Walter Kolis, Peter Titlebaum, Ed.D., and Corrine Daprano, Ph.D.

Special Events

Special events can be held for community-relations reasons but may not provide major profit. The cost of insurance, staff and usage may offset the user fee.

Similar to community memberships, holding special events also builds community relations and aids recruitment of students. "Having special events helps get folks into the building that might not otherwise come in, feel intimidated or think we don't have anything they would like to participate in," said Jennifer Sexton, coordinator of fitness and wellness programs at Stanford University.

Campus groups should have first priority when scheduling special events. One extra month could be given for university groups to have exclusive scheduling priority. All university groups with established events will be able to obtain reservation dates before community groups are allowed to schedule.

Community special events should be scheduled to minimize student displacement. Keith Weinrich, of Rowan University in New Jersey, explained that they "hold the event after hours so it won't affect any regular time at the facility."

Students realize that some special events are necessary. Community events can also incorporate students who wish to attend or volunteer. "In a number of our events, we have had student employees and or student organizations involved," said Greg Sferra of Slippery Rock University. "These experiences provided valuable educational opportunities for the students that many times relate to their major."

Communication is crucial in balancing community usage with student needs and desires. Students must be made aware of all events in the facility. This can be easily accomplished by posting the master calendar in the lobby. Users will be able to see when special events are coming and plan accordingly.

Students are much more accepting of the occasional special event, such as a science fair in the gym, if they are notified well in advance. E-mail and Web pages are a great medium for sharing this information. Signs should also be posted around the facility. A campus recreation e-newsletter can be utilized as well. Kris Myers, The Ohio State University, noted that she will "send out a member update almost every week with upcoming events and updated schedules should be on the department Web site." The best way to get information to students is through a regularly updated recreational Web site.

If displacement of students is minimized with early notification of all special events, students will plan accordingly. The deadline for special event registrations should be at least one week prior to the event so that notification can be sent to all students.

Getting students involved in the activities will assist the special event and make them more accepting of the displacement. Encourage the special event organizers to market to students for attendance or volunteers. The recreation department can forward these needs to the students.