Save the P.E.I.F saunas: it’s good to sweat


Recently, posters appeared in the Physical Educational and Instructional Facility (P.E.I.F) announcing that in December the saunas would be closed permanently, much to the consternation of those of us who use these facilities regularly.

The sauna is a very large part of the culture surrounding the Upper Peninsula-it’s a result of the region’s Scandinavian heritage, of course, something which NMU has embraced for generations. We are the university that for years has employed the advertising slogan “Northern, Naturally,” and with good reason: our pristine environment makes NMU a truly unique place to live, work and study.

It would be a cold winter indeed, if we were to forced to face the season without the respite of a sauna.

There are significant health benefits to the sauna, which can be summed up in one phrase: it’s good to sweat. After a workout at the P.E.I.F, there’s nothing like a relaxing, cleansing sauna. The combination of heat and moisture opens the pores, loosens taut muscles and reduces the ache in sore joints.

The sauna also provides a unique social environment. In the men’s sauna (and I’m sure in the women’s sauna, as well) conversation is a valued part of the experience. Discussion is welcomed and, in my experience, has always been conducted with the utmost civility.

Lately, however, the talk in the saunas has revolved around the decision to close these facilities down. At first there was speculation that this was part of the university’s determination to reduce energy costs.

No one would argue against making our campus more energy efficient, though clearly eliminating the saunas seems a very small step toward a greener NMU.

Instead, the hours that the saunas may be used might be limited; for instance, operate them only during “peak” hours, like in the early morning, and again in the early evening. Or it might be more efficient to operate the saunas on alternate days.
However, another reason has surfaced regarding the closing of the saunas, and this, unfortunately, has only been communicated in the form of rumor and conjecture. It is said that the facilities are being closed because there have been reports of “inappropriate behavior” in the saunas. If this is so, does it warrant closing down the facilities entirely, thus penalizing those who use them regularly (and appropriately)?

NMU student Dustin Gray initiated a petition recently and he has already gathered several hundred signatures from students, faculty and staff, as well as paying members of the P.E.I.F who are opposed to the closing of the saunas. Monday afternoon I was informed by the P.E.I.F administration that they are now considering changes that would allow these facilities to be kept open.

We encourage the administration in its efforts, and would be happy to work with them to help insure that the NMU community may still use the saunas in the P.E.I.F.

Editor’s Note: John Smolens is an English professor at NMU. The professor’s corner is a weekly column written by various NMU faculty. Any professors interested in writing should contact the opinions editor at [email protected]