Campus Recreation Is Not Providing Enough Services to NEIU’s Sports Community
February 4, 2022
This is the first installment of a series of articles that started as an assignment for a class called Solutions Journalism. The class objective was to teach students a kind of journalism that does not only talk about how bad things are, but instead, presents a problem and the varied responses that people elsewhere had developed to solve it.
After a year and a half-long hiatus from in-person classes, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) students came back for the Fall 2021 semester with the hope of being able to enjoy college life to the fullest within the restrictions and rules driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Department teams had more than a year to prepare events and to plan for contingencies so students could enjoy the NEIU sport facilities as usual. But the reality was different. As classes started and schedules for the P.E Complex were available, Campus Recreation did not yet have a COVID-19 protocol for athletes using the facilities and also failed to organize and promote any sport activities throughout the fall semester.
The IM League page for NEIU, an app that allows students to sign up for their preferred sport within the university and the ability to create teams and schedules for leagues, was populated with events for Fall 2021 but nobody seemed to be managing the website.
This writer created a profile and a team for the soccer tournament, but nobody processed the submissions, and there were only two other students registered for events during Fall 2021, but their registrations went unprocessed as well.
As the second week of Spring 2022 finishes, the information on NEIU’s IM League website has not changed from past semester. Campus Recreation had only sent out correspondence at the end of the semester regarding their change of schedule, holiday break and on Jan. 24, 2022 informing the NEIU community about the reopening of the facilities on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. NEIU will resume operations at the Fitness Center starting on Jan. 31, 2022.
Campus Recreation also communicated to students in their last email to “be on the lookout” for more information and presented a “Nest Night Volleyball” event to be held on an undetermined date.
This void of opportunities to create a sports community and enjoy NEIU spaces is taking a toll on the student body.
Nico Olszanski, a 21-year-old CMT major, told The Independent that he “would like to be able to play soccer on a weekly basis,” but since NEIU’s promotion and offer of intramural sports is subpar, that desire was not met last semester.
He also commented that intramural sports were a feature at NEIU prior to the pandemic: 3-on-3 basketball, flag football, soccer, volleyball, and many others intramural sports were offered up to Fall 2019.
To fill the void of opportunities of engagement, international student and CMT major from the Netherlands, Wessel t’ Hoen, created a Whatsapp group called “Soccer NEIU” where NEIU students that love soccer planned to play together. They met almost every week of the Fall 2021 semester. But even though these students are organized to play soccer, NEIU presented a limited schedule for the enjoyment of sports facilities.
NEIU sports buildings close at noon on Saturdays and they are permanently closed on Sundays. The space is not open after 5:00 pm on Fridays. These are the days that most people in a commuter-based school like NEIU have available for engaging in sports activities.
This situation forced students to pay for spaces to play sports elsewhere, or to meet out of school, commonly at Stephen T. Mathers highschool while NEIU facilities sat silent.
The Independent made efforts to reach to school authorities from Campus Recreation for a comment on their plans and challenges regarding intramural sports during Fall 2021. Talli Shepherd, who oversees NEIU’s IM League page, initially agreed to an interview but has since not responded to our requests for comment.
Dr. Terry Mena, NEIU Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs, agreed to an interview for the next installment of this series in which we will present NEIU’s official response to the issue of not having intramural sports for a whole semester as well as the responses of other schools to the issue of accommodating sport activities on Campus during a pandemic, and their organization of intramural sports per se.
Alumni Jack Poskus, Matthew Davila and Sergio Sanchez collaborated in the reporting for this article.