Frustration mounting with rec program at Sask. Polytech

After several months of discussions, students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic campuses around the province are still frustrated with the lack of movement on a new recreation plan, however school administrators argue that progress is being made.

On May 31, 2018, the school announced major changes to its recreation program, which included shutting down fitness centres in Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, as well as the elimination of intermural sports programs and athletic clubs.

The school has since reinstated fitness centre access, and conducted numerous engagement sessions with students to help build a new recreation program. The first session took place in July 2018. However, with the academic year entering its final stages, students at the school say the new program hasn’t come quick enough.

“Frustrated? Yes. Optimistic? I’m not really sure,” Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students Association president Justin Skwark said. “I do have concerns that it’s not being addressed as fast as it should be and I don’t really know what it’s going to take to get some of these things back.”

Skwark said there are some positives. He’s grateful for the level of engagement and dialogue school administrators have had with students on the Wellness Steering Committee, especially over the summer. However, he’s still frustrated with the decision to overhaul the recreation program in the first place, and said there’s been little movement following those committee discussions.

“The stuff that was discussed in September is still being discussed now,” he said.

“That Wellness Steering Committee was working pretty diligently until partway through September, and then it’s kind of fallen off.”

Skwark said he wants to see services restored over the next few months if it isn’t possible to speed up the process. Those services include fitness classes like yoga, as well as organized intermural programs.

Despite those concerns, administrators from Saskatchewan Polytechnic say they’re confident plans for the new recreation program are moving in the right direction.

Tobi Strohan, the school’s associate vice-president of Student Services, said the goal is to build a new program around four dimensions: life, mind, body and community. She sees the program as vital, and said the school is taking its time to make sure it’s implemented properly.

“We wanted to do a really thorough job of this, to consult with the community and take the time to make that happen,” she said. “We’ve done that, and then we’ll just continue to focus on operations moving forward.

Strohan said the school is on track to have a new recreation plan in place by the end of the academic year, although consultations and minor adjustments will still continue. Immediate and short-term priorities have already been established, she explained, and in the meantime, students in Prince Albert have been given access to the gym to set up their own intermural programs, although there is no formal structure.

“We’re at the stage now where we’ve begun developing the resources to provide services for both intermurals and fitness classes,” Strohan said.

When asked if she thought there could have been a smoother way to implement the program, Strohan said they were focused on building a high quality program first and foremost, and not rolling things out as quickly as possible.

“We’re really focused at this stage on building the wellness strategy, building out the model, and putting in place the supports that our faculty, staff and students need to support their wellness as best we can,” she said. “That’s where we’re placing our priority.”