March 20, 2019

University Should Have Open Discussion About Dillon Closing

To the Editor:

I am writing a final update concerning Princeton University terminating general public memberships at Dillon Gym. As of mid-February, all public memberships have been cancelled.

Initially, the University’s argument was that it is doing this to relieve overcrowding at the gym. A number of people wrote in after that, arguing that this is not the case. Speak with anyone who actually goes there on a regular basis and you will find that they don’t agree either and many actually find the argument laughable. The University seemed to have realized this and changed their story to one in which they just don’t want to maintain a gym program for the general public. Aside from contradicting their initial PR statements about their commitment to the community, this change in direction plus their unwillingness to even grandfather in those who have been members for decades begs the question: What is the real reason?

It’s been mentioned privately that the University is actually presenting the public with a straw dog argument to deflect from their true reason for eliminating the public from Dillon Gym – to protect their non-profit, tax-free status on the facility. If this is the case it bears further explanation and investigation by the press.

It’s obvious that the University considers the public, many whom remain friends with their former Princeton “family” members, little more than collateral damage in this much larger issue. They must feel that the fact that Dillon is an athletic rather than an academic building leaves it open to tax liability. Reserving it exclusively for university use presumably eliminates the problem. In light of the other public activities that go on there, including summer camps, you have to wonder who is next.

If this is not the reason Dillon has closed to public members, the University should have an open, honest discussion about what that reason is and not make up two poorly thought out excuses. If the University fails to respond honestly and openly, it must be willing to sacrifice its credibility and status within the community in the eyes of the public. Depending on their true priorities, in their minds this is probably not too high a price to pay for what they receive in return.

Brian Philippi
Rocky Hill