RSF limits memberships for postdoctoral researchers, visiting scholars

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Owen Mark/Staff
Despite reopening to certain campus community members, the Recreational Sports Facility has lacked membership accessibility for postdoctoral researchers and visiting scholars.

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Since the campus Recreational Sports Facility, or RSF, first closed in March 2020, it has slowly reopened to certain members of campus. However, it has been slower in giving full access to community members, campus affiliates and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, postdoctoral researchers.

According to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff, RSF memberships are included in undergraduate and graduate students’ semesterly tuition and fees. Campus also provides RSF access to campus emeriti, retirees, graduates, staff and faculty at various membership rates.

Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researchers, visiting scholars and visiting researchers are not offered individualized memberships, leaving them with the only option of a community membership. However, the RSF stopped offering this membership since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researcher Stephany Chacon.

According to Neal Sweeney, president of United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 5810, Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researchers voted to join the union in 2016. Under their union contract, the researchers were granted access to all campus facilities, including the RSF. After initially hearing complaints from Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researchers about being denied access to the RSF in Oct. 2021, Chacon, a member of UAW Local 5810, helped file a formal grievance against campus.

As of April 1, Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researchers can now purchase the faculty and staff RSF membership tiers.

“(Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researchers) wanted access to the Rec Sports Facility, the fitness centers, because based on our contract and the fees, originally was one of the best prices for postdocs,” Chacon said. “They basically were being told, ‘No, you can’t access it.’”

Ratliff stated in an email that though community memberships are currently suspended, community members can purchase day passes for two campus pools and attend personal training sessions and fitness classes.

However, Chacon noted that without full access to the RSF, the physical, mental and social benefits of exercising close to work are restricted from community members.

“I don’t think the university’s policy on accessing sports facilities is fair enough for all students, especially visiting scholars,” said campus visiting scholar researcher Li Bailu in an email. “As visiting scholars, we very much want to be treated equally with other types of students and enjoy the same services and resources on campus.”

Additionally, Chacon said the community membership has been more expensive than the faculty and staff rates that campus postdoctoral researchers receive.

According to Ratliff, campus has been making an effort to expand RSF services to campus affiliates as of spring 2022, which includes visiting scholars and student researchers now being able to purchase faculty and staff memberships.

“They should be treated the same way even though they technically have affiliations somewhere else. They’re working here for the time being and they should have access, just like other employees have access to the fitness center,” Sweeney said.

Contact Ayah Ali-Ahmad at [email protected], and follow them on Twitter at @ayahaliahmad.