Student dance clubs at the University of Connecticut have run into conflict when trying to book studios at the new Student Recreation Center and have started a petition as a result.
When the new Rec Center opened on Aug. 26 after two years of construction, fifth-semester history major Sulema Depeyster reached out to Cynthia Costanzo, the executive director of the Rec Center, to inquire about use of the space. Depeyster is the president of two dance clubs on campus, KConn and iLLumin8 Dance Crew, which she says have been routinely forced to use less than ideal dance spaces, if they get a practice space at all.
“Oftentimes we have resorted to holding practices in classrooms, most of which are carpeted and quite a challenge to dance on,” Depeyster said.
Depeyster said she was hopeful about being able to use the new studio spaces for her groups. However, Costanzo informed her that the fitness studios were to be used for group fitness programming and club sport practices. This initial request was denied due to KConn and iLLumin8 both being student organizations as opposed to club sports. This exchange occurred prior to the opening of the Rec Center.
Many groups last year had issues securing practice spaces prior to the construction of the Rec Center, but were looking forward to a better experience with the inception of the Rec Center, according to third-semester digital media and design major Meira Tompkins. Tompkins is the event coordinator for KConn and a member of their performance team, Seoular.
Most dance clubs were relegated to classrooms or rooms in the Student Union. While there is a dance studio in the Northwest Residence Halls, its usage is generally restricted to the UConn Dance Team, which performs at Division 1 sporting events.
Given that none of the common spaces are dance studios, this provides an impediment for these groups, according to Tompkins. Members cited splinters, rug burns and lack of mirrors as complaints.
“So, imagine our group Seoular so excited about finally getting a new rec center, and so hopeful that we’ll be able to use it and finally have a nice studio to practice in. But no,” said Tompkins.
She was especially frustrated by a schedule posted online by the Rec Center which indicates vacancy in the studios for upwards of 100 hours per week.
On Sept. 18, Tompkins started a petition to be able to use the space. Since its inception, the petition has circulated in the UConn community and garnered over 2,000 signatures online, surpassing its original goal of 1,500 signatures within a week.
Tompkins and Depeyster met with Costanzo on Sept. 24 to discuss the petition and the possibility of using the space. The meeting ended with the understanding that KConn, iLLumin8 and other dance groups on campus won’t be able to book the Rec Center dance studios any time soon. Tompkins and Depeyster said an assortment of reasons were given for this conclusion.
“Groups that operate under the umbrella of student activities have access to spaces in the Student Union and elsewhere,” Stephanie Reitz, university spokesperson, said. “Dance groups fall under that category, since they’re student activities groups and not UConn Recreation programs.”
Because dance groups are considered student activities as opposed to club sports, they’re not technically a part of UConn Recreation. Other reasons cited in the meeting with Depeyster, Tompkins and Costanzo include the type of flooring in the studios and the need for regulation on footwear and the logistic difficulties of creating a system to schedule student activities in the space as well as intramural and club sports.
Tompkins and Depeyster said that Constanzo has agreed to help them find a solution to their dilemma within the next four weeks. Currently, they’re exploring usage of the Northwest dance studio or potentially using the Adventure Zone in the Rec Center as a practice space.
This controversy comes on the heels of other complaints about the Rec Center, including restrictions on attire and the disallowment of Olympic lifting. Some have also criticized the funding structure of the Rec Center, which requires undergraduate students to pay an additional $500 per year and graduate students to pay $400 per year as part of their tuition for the next 30 years.
“Historically, UConn Recreation has provided opportunities for students to engage in recreational pursuits to over 650,000 participations yearly,” Reitz said. “With the expanded programming space available to UConn Recreation, we anticipate serving more than 1 million participants in the first year of opening the new Recreation Center.”
In the first few weeks of the semester, UConn Recreation has provided service to 120,000 participants. Students said they hope UConn Recreation can expand their services even further in the future.
Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.