Columns, Opinions

Steinman ’19: Requiem for the Bear’s Lair

Opinions Editor
Thursday, September 20, 2018

I should probably start by admitting that I was never much of a fan. Like the Sharpe Refectory and the Sciences Library, the Bear’s Lair fell into a category of places on campus that I frequented not because I liked being there, but because they were steady and reliable — they got the job done. Though I spent my freshman and junior years living in luxurious proximity to the Nelson Fitness Center, I learned during my sophomore days on Patriot’s Court that convenience always trumps quality when it comes to fitting in a workout, especially during the colder months. Now that I’m living on the southern end of campus again, and now that the Bear’s Lair has been desecrated into a baffling lounge with a pair of forgotten treadmills in a corner, I can already sense the brutalist-shaped hole it has left in my heart and my physical regimen.

True, the Bear’s Lair always smelled like the Grad Center Bar. (Or was it the GCB that smelled like the Bear’s Lair? Maybe now I’ll finally be able to find out.) The treadmills, if they were working, made terrifying rattling noises, and the array of options was far more limited than can be found at the Nelson. Still, for the students who live south of Waterman St., the Bear’s Lair made it vastly easier to make time in the day for exercise, which has been proven time and again to be one of the best ways to maintain physical and mental health during times of stress. A 2010 study even found that vigorous exercise can lead to a “sizable difference” in GPAs for college students.

My complaints over a 15-minute walk to a gym where the intention is to work out anyway may seem overblown. But in the interest of promoting student health and wellness, the University should not be undertaking large-scale renovations that make these resources less accessible than they were to begin with. While the deliberations that led to this decision have not been made public, this appears to be a case of the University fixing what isn’t broken (well, except for the treadmills.) In my own experience and that of many of my peers, the Bear’s Lair was popular and well-used, more welcoming than the Nelson and easier to fit into an already packed schedule. Reacting to the University’s upgrades of the Bear’s Lair in early 2011, Christian Talavera ’12 pointed out that most students are “on a tight schedule and typically allow and allot a certain time for the gym.” When time for exercising is carved out of the day, even small delays add up.

The satellite fitness center in Emery-Woolley has also ceased to exist, leaving only the Keeney fitness center, which is only accessible to residents of that quad. I wonder how much student input, or even simple observation of these two former fitness centers during peak hours, was incorporated into the choice to eliminate them. I’ve found that communal spaces like the one recently installed in place of the Bear’s Lair are almost always underutilized, failing to reflect the way that students actually interact with each other in their living spaces. Meanwhile, the fact that the Bear’s Lair was popular even in its decrepit state underscores the demand for satellite fitness centers ,no matter their quality. To eliminate the Bear’s Lair and the fitness center in Emery-Woolley without providing any kind of replacement will only concentrate that demand in the remaining two campus gyms, with the Nelson bearing the brunt because of Keeney’s limited access. This will either translate into bigger crowds and longer wait times or a less physically active student body — and the former could easily result in the latter.

Later today, our beloved Brown Bears will take to the football field to play (and realistically, lose to) the Harvard Crimson in what is traditionally the most popular sporting event of the year. I’m not saying that the preservation of the Bear’s Lair will transform Brown into an athletic powerhouse, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

Clare Steinman ’19 is probably still walking to the Nelson, and can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to

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