SGA finalizing proposal to expand fitness spaces

Students complain that the current gym is too small and outdated. Photo by Mari Lundin.

A proposal to install a satellite gym in Henley Hall basement is going forward, despite expressed student preference that the on-campus Julianne Argyros Fitness Center be expanded.

“Students prefer they expand on main campus, and the answer is so do I,” said the Student Government Association (SGA) president Mitchell Rosenberg  

But because additional fitness facilities were not included in the next phase of Chapman’s five-year strategic plan (which will begin next fall) there was no possibility to get additional fitness space on campus for at least that long, Rosenberg said. After two-years of scouting potential locations for expansion SGA decided in concert with the school administration that the best way to alleviate the overcrowding of the current fitness center to give the Henley basement a million dollar fitness makeover.

“Although it’s outwardly not our first option, either we expand into Henley basement or we wait five to seven years,” Rosenberg said.

The money for the estimated $1-1.2 million project has not yet been obtained but will likely come from a donor, said Rosenberg, who noted the project will not hike tuition.

The addition would more than double the 4,000 square foot space students currently have dedicated to exercise.  

Student’s illustrated their concerns for lack of gym space in a survey sent to 2,500 students in the fall of 2016, concurrent with feedback Rosenberg is receiving from student’s now. Students are showing a desire for immediate additional physical spaces, he said.

The proposal and student feedback data was sent to administration last week. If the president of Chapman, Daniele C. Struppa, and the senior leaders of Campus Planning, Student Affairs, and Facilities Management decide to press forward with it renovations should be completed by fall 2019.

“Having a bigger gym on-campus would be nice, but if it wouldn’t be built for that long I wouldn’t even care,” said junior business administration major Jason Weigel. “I’ll be graduated by then and it wouldn’t affect me at all.”

Other options considered by Chapman administration and the SGA included Hutton 212 (the gymnastics room) on the second floor of the fitness center. But a a section of the gymnasium bleachers would have to be removed in order to make a Hutton expansion viable.

Chapman administrators vetoed that option in the desire to retain the large capacity space on campus, according to Rosenberg.

Henley basement was found to have the most available physical space that didn’t compromise classrooms or study space and didn’t diminish seating options in the Hutton auditorium.

“Overall, we’ve evaluated many options and this truly is the best option now that we have,” Rosenberg said. “We’re doing our best to answer student concerns.”

Some students fear the Henley gym will become a resident gym and the fitness center will become a commuter gym, failing to benefit upperclassmen who don’t want to workout at the dorms. Others fear the Henley basement will become totally overrun.

“A gym in Henley will be nice for students who live on campus but I don’t think students living off campus would really use it,” said Cody Paresa, a freshman biochemistry major who lives in South Morlan.

Paresa said he wouldn’t use it anyway because he’s on the football team and has access to the athlete’s gym.

Henley basement proposed gym layout: yellow outlined area is the proposed expansion area. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Rosenberg

The renovation won’t overtake the whole basement, Rosenberg said. Entering from outside, the left door will lead to the fitness center and the right side will remain exactly the same, he explained.

“We still want that community space,” Rosenberg said. “It’s important.”

Residence life offices, Chapman Radio, the laundry room, music rooms, and computer labs won’t be sacrificed with the new layout.

The project will repurpose the current 24-hour exercise room in Henley basement into a club meeting space and the John Briggs Conference Room will become a group fitness room, providing space for union fit classes that are now held in Argyros Forum.

The greatest expense arising from the renovation will be new equipment that will replace the pool tables and couches that are there now, according to Rosenberg.

Unbroken and well-kept exercise equipment in the current Henley fitness room will be salvaged and upgraded. Residence life will no longer be responsible for maintaining the space as Fitness and Recreation services will take over.

“We don’t want to make it a temporary fitness space, we want it to be permanent a fitness center,” Rosenberg said.

The Henley gym will total about 4,000 square feet, roughly bigger than the current facilities students currently have access to at the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center.

The last renovation to Julianne Argyros Fitness Center was in 2013, and since then Chapman’s total student enrollment has increased by over 1,500 students since then, according to the university’s student headcount.  

There were 115,098 guest check-ins at the Argyros Fitness Center from June 2017-May 2018 and 417,685 total visits over the past four years, according to Michael Keyser, the Assistant Director of the Department of Student Engagement.

The gym is open seven days a week but closed for a week during fall and springs breaks, and two weeks for winter break, he said.

Skyfactor, a program that assess and compares education institutions of similar sizes and locations, provided SGA with information that showed Chapman is falling behind on physical fitness spaces in regards to how many students we have and how big our campus is, as well as an inadequate amount of exercise equipment.

“That reflects on our departments and it reflects on our students,” Rosenberg said. “Looking at it from a holistic standpoint of health, wellness, and recreation, fitness is very much so tied into your health and mental health so it’s really important.”

While the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center will remain open to all students, staff, and faculty, Rosenberg is pushing for the Henley space to be open to all students but not staff or faculty.

Chapman University Ombudsperson, Dr. Frank Frisch, didn’t respond to three requests for a comment on how faculty and staff would be affected by this decision.

“We want to remember that it’s a students living space so [students] might feel less comfortable running into [their] professor in the building [they] live in,” Rosenberg said.

Still, some students love the SGA plans for reasons that have nothing to do with design or location.

Kristyna Otto a junior public relations and advertising major, said she’d be more likely to use a gym in the Henley basement than she would the current facility.  

“I’d go to the gym at the dorms so I can avoid my exes since only freshman will be there,” Otto said.

Drugs, district attorney’s and the dark web: Rahul Gupta and “mystery man” address dangers of the dark web.

Rahul Gupta speaking in Argyros Forum Student Union, “Johnny” spoke from behind the white screen next to him. Photo by Mari Lundin

Chapman brought a special guest speaker to the Argyros Student Union Stage yesterday – a nameless drug smuggler whose face and body were obscured as he detailed ordering molly and other drugs off the dark web for eventual sale.

“Even though Johnny wasn’t on the street corner we still found him, we still arrested him, we still convicted him,” said Rahul Gupta, an Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney.

Gupta warned an audience of students, concerned parents, and staff members about the false sense of security many students have when ordering drugs off the dark web, believing their transactions to be anonymous and undetectable. His presentation also included warnings about buying cryptocurrencies on the dark web – a practice that is not illegal, but fraught with consumer risk.

“Johnny,” a self-described former finance professional and college graduate from Orange County, spoke from behind a jerry-rigged white screen. His hidden, disembodied voice told the audience how he lost money in risky cryptocurrency investments and wound up arrested for smuggling drugs he ordered over the “dark web,” a shadow internet that allows people to conduct transactions anonymously.

The dark web is data that resides on the internet but requires a special browser to access, such as Tor. Using Tor protects user anonymity and shields IP addresses so web behavior – and web users – can’t be tracked. Because of these shields, Tor is not only popular with investigative journalists who want to protect confidential sources but criminals who wish to escape detection for dealing anything from Ecstasy to child pornography.

While Gupta did not reveal the sentence Johnny received, he acknowledged “consideration” was extended in exchange for Johnny’s willingness to speak in public about his experience.

Johnny said he smoked weed and occasionally did molly and cocaine, but never considered dealing until stumbling on the dark web and concluding it would be easy to purchase large quantities for profit as an anonymous buyer.

His first flirtation was cryptocurrency. He withdrew money from his 401K to invest in cryptocurrency, expecting a fast profit. Instead, his investments tanked, and he turned to drug dealing.

“I went into a side hustle, I wanted to make big money, I wanted to live large,” Johnny said.

He started by ordering and distributing 50 ecstasy pills. That led to thousands more. Soon, he was spending five to six thousand dollars on a single drug order.

“[The expectation of making easy money] can be very enticing,” Gupta said. “It’s a lure when you’re on social media to want to live the fast life, and this is the hard way to make an easy living.”

The prime customers for narcotics imported through the dark web are college-aged students and a majority of people who sell them are around the same age, according to Gupta.

Undercover agents are on the dark web monitoring dealers and engaging transactions with the intention of making busts. Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash.

“This is a relatively new phenomenon that is sweeping not only Orange County but the United States and it’s tremendously affecting young people,” Gupta said.

And it’s abetted by visual social media platforms that motivate young people to desire more materialistic things, Gupta said.

[Dealing] is like [when] you watch those movies where it’s all glamorous at the beginning,” Johnny said. “Then at the end, it’s the mug shot. All the flashing lights and [his fancy life] just ended.”

Before his arrest, Johnny lost around $12,000 in cryptocurrency to scammers who promised to send him drugs but vanished into the recesses of the dark web after he paid them.

“If you’re going to venture onto the dark web, just be aware of what the risks are out there,” Gupta said. “If you think ‘hey I can remain anonymous and maybe I can engage in something illegal, maybe I won’t get caught,’ just know that people do get caught.”

“Nobody thinks they’ll get caught,” Johnny said. “But in the back of my head, I knew I was playing Russian Roulette.”

Johnny’s package was flagged by Customs and Border Protection. When he went to pick it up from the post office law enforcement was waiting for him.

Undercover agents are on the dark web monitoring dealers and engaging transactions with the intention of making busts, Gupta said. And illegal drug orders are regularly intercepted by  U.S. Customs. The lure of dark web drugs “is ruining a lot of lives,” Gupta said. “Both in terms of the people who consume the product and those who are selling the product that get caught.”

Gupta also addressed the risky nature of cryptocurrency investments.

The rising use of cryptocurrency may make financial transactions untraceable – it’s why crypto coins are the currency in ransomware attacks – but that also means consumers are unlikely to recover any money they lose in deals gone bad, Gupta said.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be bought at Crypto ATMs, on the regular web, and at in-person exchanges. There are over 1800 types of cryptocurrencies to choose from, including Ethereum, ZCash, and Monero, Gupta said.

“Cryptocurrency is a whole new area in financial services and none of them, not a single one of these 1800, is backed by any type of government entity or any type of bank,” Gupta explained. “It’s just a risk you need to be aware of.”

Because there’s no central system backing up these currencies, their value fluctuates constantly, and they’re not insured. Yet, more retailers and merchants are beginning to accept bitcoin. In Orange County, a Tesla can be bought with enough Bitcoin, according to Gupta.

Cryptocurrency isn’t tangible but can be stored on phones, paper, and electronic thumb drives. But codes can be stolen, and with them, cryptocurrency.

“Cryptocurrency is legal, using the dark web is legal,” Gupta said. “There are some risks involved when you venture into these new areas of technology.”

Physical threats are also arising, like robberies of people for their cryptocurrencies during set up exchanges, ransomware, and blackmail.

Schools Out, Pets Out: Students are dumping their pets at the end of the semester.

Students vacating campus for the summer are leaving behind more than just their school work.

Chester, an abandoned Pit bull, has been at OC Animal Care since April.

When the school year is over, students returning home or moving after graduation often find themselves stuck on what to do with their animals. While some find new owners for their pets, others are depositing them at animal shelters or even dumping them on the streets.

According to Brittany Hayes, the director of OC Animal Care’s community outreach program, there is a correlation between the time students leave school in May and the number of shelter intakes in college towns.  

In May 2017, there were 1,653 intakes compared to 896 intakes in November 2017.  But that increase may not be entirely due to students leaving: Spring is also the peak mating season for cats, leading to an increase in stray kittens, said OC Animal Care field worker Amy Hernandez.

Nonetheless, there are students who find themselves unable to take the pets they brought with them to Chapman or took in while here to their next destination.

Chapman alumna Dana Lujack took responsibility for finding a home for her friend’s cat, Captain after he was abandoned in Orange over the summer while his owner went home to Portola Valley.

“It’s always a risk taking an animal to the shelter,” Lujack said. “But I didn’t have another option, he was just bouncing around the neighborhood.”

Lujack said she didn’t want to take the cat to Orange County Animal Shelter because it’s a kill shelter and costs money to surrender a pet. In 2017, there were 3,594 shelter euthanasias according to OC Animal Care’s statistics.

Even when students try to hand off their pets to shelters, they encounter obstacles involving animal health, residency, expenses and refusal for other reasons.

When Lujack couldn’t find another home for Captain, she tried to relinquish him to OC Animal Shelter and was turned down because it was at max capacity and because she wasn’t an Orange County resident.

Lujack ran into the same issues at four other shelters.

Miley, an abandoned Pit bull mix, is one of 59 dogs waiting to be adopted at OC Animal Care.

A lot of rescue organizations and animal shelters such as OC Animal Care, require proof of residency to take in animals, limiting the options of Chapman students who rent houses and live in dorms.

The shelter has strict guidelines for accepting animals, according to OC Animal Care field worker Amy Hernandez. The shelter can’t be at max capacity, there must be proof of residency and the animal must be healthy and considered adoptable. There’s also a surrender fee which increased from $81 to $306 on September 1.

“People will do whatever they can to get around paying,” Hernandez said. “I can only imagine the amount of students who give up their pets because of financial issues, they’re not going to [want to] pay these fees.”

These restraints reduce the options for students who are unable to take care of their animals while they’re gone for the summer or if they move away after graduation.

When students are unable to find a new home for their pet or can’t relinquish it to a shelter, they sometimes abandon them on the streets with the assumption that the animal will be picked up by the authorities and end up in a shelter anyways, said Hayes.

Kimara Velez, a junior public relations and advertising major, adopted two pet bunnies, Molly and Bambi, with her roommate freshman year.

After a couple weeks of keeping the rabbits in their dorm room in South Morlan, Velez opened the bright green door to find Molly dead, cause unknown. Bambi was getting too big to keep in a dorm room, so Velez set him loose in the Morlan courtyard.  

Maggie, a relinquished chow-lab mix, is one of 30,000 animals taken in at OC Animal Care in the past year.

“We couldn’t take care of them,” Velez said. “Bambi was better off on his own.”

Other students turn to friends and family to take in the pets they can’t take with them.

Sienna Newton, a junior strategic and corporate communications and psychology major, bought a six-week-old Pomeranian, Casper, the second semester of her freshman year.

“I liked the idea of having a dog, but I didn’t realize how big of a responsibility it would be,” Newton said.

By finals week, Newton realized she couldn’t take Casper back to her home in London with her for the summer, so she decided to leave him with a family friend in Los Angeles. She never picked up Casper again.

“Students need to consider if it’s the best time in their life to have a pet right now,” Hayes said. “A pet is a lifelong commitment, not a semester-long one.”

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) urges students who can’t make the commitment to look into volunteer opportunities at local shelters and rescue groups or find jobs pet sitting and dog walking.