The newly renovated Ringe Squash Courts, set to open on Nov. 9, will now charge fees, a measure that will effectively prohibit some squash enthusiasts from making use of the new facilities. In order to continue to work towards a community that provides equal opportunities for all students and endeavors to better engage with the Philadelphia community, Penn must reverse this decision and open up the renovated squash courts without fees, as they have operated for years.
Donors contributed over $15 million in funding for the renovations that created these state-of-the-art squash courts. Some benefactors, however, believed that their support would contribute to facilities operating under the same payment policy as before. Instead, West Philadelphia community members, alumni, faculty, and even students are now required to pay hourly fees to use the court. The magnitude of these fees will depend on whether they are using them at “peak” or “off-peak” hours.
Previously, the courts were free for students, while non-students could use the courts for a few hundred dollars annually.
Squash, a sport that is inextricably associated with private schools, country clubs, and elite social circles, used to be entirely accessible to Penn students, even those who may not have had access to the sport previously. This new payment system strengthens the frequent criticism of classism against the University in its relationships with students and the greater Philadelphia community. This concern is not unfounded — almost a fifth of all Penn students come from households in the top 1% of income in the United States, and only 3% of students come from the bottom 20%.
Enforcing fees at the Ringe Squash Courts is classist and does not represent the purported values of Penn as an institution striving towards egalitarianism.
While some students at Penn may have years of experience with squash, others likely have not had the opportunity to play until coming to Penn. Squash courts that are open to the public are rare, and many schools, particularly public schools from which many Penn students hail, often do not have them either. Ringe could be a unique space of equal access, benefiting students who are newly able to access the sport and benefiting the squash community by opening up an underappreciated and uncommon sport to new players and communities.
Instead of charging exorbitant prices for faculty, alumni, students, and other community members, the Penn Athletics administration ought to have kept the old system in place. Penn has acquiesced somewhat and lowered costs for students, but the magnitude of the fees is not the issue: 1979 College and Wharton graduate Bruce Marks compared paying for these facilities to paying to go to the library. It is still free to study in Van Pelt or Fisher Fine Arts — as the donors who contributed to their construction intended — and for Penn to truly continue to work towards becoming an institution of equals, regardless of wealth and privilege, the same principle must apply.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn’s campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.