Complaining about murky water and insufficient available pool time, students and faculty are pushing for a new natatorium – the technical term for indoor swimming facilities – on campus, lobbying the shared governing bodies of the University and the Athletics Advisory Committees.
On March 8, the University Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting the Faculty Senate’s resolution “Inclusion and Prioritization of a New Natatorium in the ‘Do the Greater Good’ Fundraising Campaign”, which deals with the need for a new swimming pool. The resolution was also supported by the Student Assembly and the Faculty Advisory Committee on Athletics and Physical Education, which sponsored the original resolution.
The sponsor of the resolution, Professor Ashleigh Newman, Veterinary Medicine, received 17 co-sponsors in the Faculty Senate and many more support at meetings from other senators who have not officially signed their names.
The University’s current “To Do The Greatest Good” fundraising campaign does not set aside funds for a new natatorium, although it plans to raise $5 billion. Inclusion in the campaign would allow a new natatorium to be funded by alumni and other outside donors, without placing full financial responsibility on Cornell.
Currently, the University has two aquatic facilities: a swimming pool at Helen Newman and a larger one at Teagle Hall. These pools are used by several physical education classes, the men’s and women’s varsity swimming and diving teams, the Naval ROTC program, club teams, and other miscellaneous activities. The pools also provide open swimming time for the Cornell community, used by a group of 43% students and 57% faculty, staff, and retirees.
The Teagle Hall swimming pool, built in what was originally the campus’ men’s sports facility, has a main pool with six 25-meter-long lanes and a learner’s pool for new swimmers. . Helen Newman, originally built as a women-only sports facility, also has a 25-meter-long six-lane swimming pool.
Both natatoriums had problems, which got worse over time. According to the presentation Newman made to the Faculty Senate on Feb. 9, Teagle Hall is in need of a roof replacement, and talks of a new pool have been going on since the 1980s.
Diving team member Demetra Williams ’24 expressed frustration with the current natatorium. She hopes a new natatorium will include a diving pit with a diving platform as well as poolside overhead showers.
“I’ve seen the Teagle pool turn both green and purple, on different occasions. I’ve seen Teagle drained, refilled, then drained again to improve the water quality,” Williams said. “I had late night workouts at Ithaca College because our pool wasn’t in good enough shape to accommodate college workouts.”
The pools also had maintenance issues related to water quality, which resulted in the swimming and diving teams’ home competitions being moved to Ithaca College facilities during the 2019-20 seasons. and 2021-2022.
“In our one and only home meeting of 2021-22 against Brown, in which the facilities had spent weeks prepping the pool by shocking and filtering the water, one of Brown’s divers told me looked and said, “Is your pool still cloudy? ‘” Williams told The Sun. “And I was like, ‘This is the cleanest pool in years. “”
The resolution supporting a new natatorium proposes that the University build a 50-meter swimming pool in order to increase the pool space and therefore the swimming hours available to the community.
Wes Newman, the men’s swimming head coach, said a new 50-meter pool would solve some of the team’s current issues, such as limited space.
“For example, varsity teams could have men’s swimming, women’s swimming and diving [men’s and women’s] are all running simultaneously, which we can’t do now, which would free up more pool time for other users,” Newman said.
According to the appendix to the resolution, Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Duke and Stanford all have sufficient facilities to simultaneously host swimming and diving competitions. Other regional schools, such as Ithaca College, Colgate University, and Binghamton University also do so.
“From a varsity perspective, having a pool that could accommodate our Ivy conference meeting would be a dream,” Newman said. “However, from the perspective of the Cornell campus, meeting the needs of our campus community is most important.”
The pools also taught generations of Cornellians to swim. PE 1100: Begin Swimming, which uses the Helen Newman Pool, has helped hundreds of students learn to swim and pass the University swim test.
The resolution emphasizes the racial dynamics of swimming at Cornell. Between 2018 and 2020, 89.7% of PE 1100 students were people of color, the same groups that have higher drowning rates. Blacks have a 1.5 times higher death rate from drowning than their white counterparts, compared to a death rate 2 to 3.5 times higher for American Indians or Alaska Natives, according to the resolution.
Additionally, the resolution argues that gender equity and inclusion on campuses are best served with a new natatorium. According to the resolution, Teagle Hall does not have adequate facilities for people who do not identify as male or female. Williams also said the men’s locker room had more room than the women’s locker room.
“I hope a new natatorium will not only provide equal space for both sexes, but also space for gender non-conforming or trans people,” Williams said.
The current pools are both expected to become non-functional and unsafe to use between 2022 and 2025. Without a pool, Cornell would have to end all of its pool operations and find itself the “Only Ivy League, Non-Ivy Peer and Regional [New York] college/university without one,” according to the resolution.
Since funding, planning, approval and construction of a new natatorium can take up to 10 years, the University will likely not have a functioning pool when its current facilities expire.