Faculty and staff are facing off against the Cal Poly athletic department in a dispute over who has the right to use Mott Gym’s lockers and shower facilities.
In the past, Cal Poly employees have made use of the gym’s lockers and showers after runs or bike rides on campus, but as of Sept. 10, Mott Gym’s facilities are now reserved for athletics, athletic director Don Oberhelman said.
The decision was made to provide student-athletes, some of whom had to share lockers, with more privacy and access to better resources, Oberhelman said.
“I just didn’t think that was appropriate that we had an athletic room that essentially was open access,” Oberhelman said.
Faculty and staff would often enter the locker rooms while student-athletes were there, and one employee even entered the locker rooms while they were being used by a visiting sports team during a game, Oberhelman said.
Cal Poly employees were informed at the beginning of September via locker room notices that the facilities would be off-limits to anyone not involved with the athletic department starting Sept. 10. They had the option to remove their belongings, or their locker contents would be held for them by athletics until they came to retrieve them, according to the note.
The decision was made to give student-athletes a better experience, Oberhelman said. Regardless of faculty or staff concerns, the priority of Cal Poly departments is to serve the needs of students, Oberhelman said.
“I hate that that’s what they had to come up with, but our student-athletes are going to be treated first and foremost better than our staff and faculty,” Oberhelman said.
In the meantime, faculty and staff were told they could get a membership at the newly opened Recreation Center as an alternative.
But a Recreation Center membership, at $48 a month for faculty and staff, is too expensive to be an alternative, political science department chair Craig Arceneaux said.
In the past, Arceneaux used Mott Gym’s showers after riding his bike to campus instead of driving once a week. If Arceneaux went to the Recreation Center once a week, though, that same shower would cost him $12, he said.
By limiting Mott Gym’s accessibility, athletics is hurting Cal Poly employees, Arceneaux said.
“My feeling is that this is just another example of the university not addressing the health and well-being concerns of the staff,” Arceneaux said.
Arceneaux said he sees his options limited by the decision to close off Mott Gym: he can either drive to campus — which costs gas money — or come to school one less day, he said.
The issue isn’t just about locker space, but about having access to affordable showers, said journalism department administrative systems coordinator Tess Serna Ramirez, who has used the showers for the past five years after going running.
“We were willing to give up our lockers,” Ramirez said. “We just really wanted the showers.”
The decision further separates different factions of the Cal Poly community, Ramirez said.
In response to staff and faculty concerns, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong held an open forum on the locker room and shower issue on Sept. 14. Employees appreciated Armstrong’s willingness to hear their concerns, but didn’t feel any action had been taken to solve the problem of where to shower and store belongings, Ramirez said.
“He basically shut us down,” Ramirez said.
The president listened to concerns, but in the end, Mott Gym remained reserved for athletes, and Armstrong pointed Cal Poly employees toward the Recreation Center as an alternative.
The president did agree to look into finding an affordable shower and locker room alternative, but at the moment, no such alternative has been located.
Armstrong hasn’t forgotten staff and faculty concerns, though, and is continuing to look for a solution that both athletics and Cal Poly employees will be happy with, public affairs team leader Stacia Momburg said.
“The president’s office is looking into any alternatives that there might be on campus,” Momburg said.
For right now, though, the only option for staff and faculty is the Recreation Center.
Sean McMinn contributed to this article.