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Opinion: As U of T closes its gyms, why are students still paying for them?

U of T students feel shortchanged out of exercise and community
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SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

On October 9, Ontario announced that it would be implementing additional restrictions to combat the rising case numbers of COVID-19 in the province. U of T responded with the closure of indoor gyms and fitness centres. Some facilities, however, are still accessible: outdoor intramurals are still on track to happen, the school teams for COVID-19-friendly sports will still be able to train, and virtual fitness classes are still a go.

Even with the lower mortality rates and improvements in treatment, this is the worst I’ve felt about the pandemic yet. Even through the peak of the danger, we at least felt like we were slowly making progress. Now, it feels like we’re going in reverse. Without access to gyms, many students will now feel unable to exercise as they would prefer and their fitness will be negatively impacted. There is also mental health to consider: school athletics have always been a focal point of school spirit and community.

While we can all look forward to lounging on the couch for the foreseeable future, the real issue here is that students are forced to pay incidental fees for facilities that they now can’t use. While safety precautions are necessary, there has to be a recognition and response from the university to the cost of services that are no longer available — especially given the financial challenges faced by students during the pandemic.

And this speaks to a broader issue: as the school starts to transition to fully online classes, getting your money’s worth out of the complete university experience has become difficult.

We have the right to be upset about our losses, but let’s just remember that this is not for forever and that athletics will return. Until then, remember that this pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. We will get our lives back, U of T — we just need to weather the storm.