The Ruth Merrill Center has transformed into a social hub these past few weeks, on account of the new massage chairs in its lounge.
Senior Xueying (Shelley) Chen proposed these massage chairs and won the 5K Challenge during spring semester of 2018.
Though the placement of the chairs strikes many as odd and obscure, SA Vice President Jamal Holtz revealed that it was actually strategic.
“Part of our goal was to […] put it somewhere it could have a meaning behind it,” Holtz said.
Gesturing to the several offices in the Ruth Merrill center, he continued, “A lot of people don’t know that these are actually student offices and clubs […] You have every student government representative in here […] and we want students to come here and share their ideas with us.”
Overall, students’ responses to the chairs has been a mix of unabashed excitement, guarded curiosity and good-natured bemusement.
“I don’t expect them to relieve all our stress, but it’s cool,” sophomore Kamal Raji said. He has tried all the settings, and recommends the stretch in zero-gravity mode.
First-year Victoria Klarer also recommended the stretch, but warned users to “be careful — it will harass your ass.”
Several students said they were planning to use the chairs frequently, in moments of stress or bodily pain, but others seemed more hesitant, calling them an unnecessary luxury.
The 5K challenge is no stranger to the tug of war between luxury and necessity: last year, many were unhappy that the massage chairs won out over ideas such as free menstrual cups, which would have provided people with an eco-friendly period product option.
In response to this discontent, Holtz encouraged students to remember they had a voice, and to use it.
“We put everything in the student’s hands [… and they] voted for it. The table is there it’s just that people haven’t taken a seat at it.”
Additionally, first-year Nya Robinson questioned whether the 5K challenge had to be responsible for solving campus needs.
“If there are things this campus needs, should they be taken care of by the 5K challenge or should they just be taken care of?” Robinson said, suggesting that the 5K challenge should strive to strike a balance between wants and needs.
Whether the massage chairs are a worthy investment, or a phase to be forgotten, will be determined with time. For now, what is certain is that submissions for this year’s 5K challenge will be opening soon, giving the student body another chance to make their voices count.
Correction (9/5/18): An earlier version of this article used the pronoun “she” to refer to sophomore Kamal Raji.