A petition has been launchedfollowing Imperial College London’s announcement to close the swimming pool at the St. Mary’s campus.
The swimming pool is scheduled to close from the 16th July, 2018, at the end of this academic year. College faculty have cited concerns over cost effectiveness, saying College students and staff only make up 15% of users of the pool, which is run by Sport Imperial. The petition, which has more than 700 signatures at time of writing, says the closure was made “with no prior warning or consultation”, calling the decision “deeply disappointing, short-sighted, and unjust”. It also argues that it goes against Sport Imperial’s “current strategy of promoting mental and physical wellbeing”.
The St. Mary’s Hospital Association (SMHA), the alumnus organisation for the St. Mary’s medical school graduates, also cited concerns over communication. They said they “deplore the lack of consultation that appears to have occurred prior to the closure of the pool being announced.”
In a statement to Felix, Gareth Tudor-Williams, Jonathan Hoare, and Kevin Brown, representatives of the SMHA, said: “In financially constrained times, we fully recognise the need for tough decisions to be made regarding facilities for students and staff. It may be the case that the pool has been underused in recent years, but this may be because of poor marketing and underinvestment. Talking to colleagues in the hospital, very few are even aware of the existence of a pool in the medical school.”
“We strongly back the need for open, thoughtful consultation and publication of the facts relating to usage of the pool and efforts at income-generation that have been tried before a final decision is made.”
A College spokesperson said “the costs of required maintenance mean it is not sustainable to continue running this facility”, and that the pool’s closure “is part of the College’s wider cost savings which are designed to allow for reinvestment of funds into the academic mission.”
The petition refers to the long history of St. Mary’s pool, which has been open for 80 years. Kevin Brown, Trust Archivist for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Curator of the Alexander Fleming Museum Laboratory, told Felix of the pool’s historical pedigree:
“Alexander Fleming was one of the first users of the swimming pool when it opened in the early 1930s. Water sports had in a way brought him to St. Mary’s. He had played water polo for the London Scottish Regiment against a team from St. Mary’s and had been so impressed by their esprit de corps and friendliness that when he came to apply to medical school in 1901 he chose St. Mary’s rather than any of the other medical schools in London at that time.”
The petition also highlights the role the pool plays currently, saying it benefits “a wide cross section of students, staff, sports groups, and the wider local community”, and ”boasts developing the talent of international sporting stars”.
The decision was announced at the beginning of last month on Imperial College’s website. The 20-meter pool, which will remain open throughout the rest of the year, is open to students, Imperial staff, NHS staff, and members of the public.
A College spokesperson told Felix: “Imperial is committed to providing sports facilities of the highest standard for its staff and student community, and we know the facility has been a valued part of the St. Mary’s Campus for many years. The pool will continue to be open as normal for the first half of 2018, and the swimming pool at Ethos on the South Kensington Campus is available for all College students and staff.”