Summer break has arrived at Purdue University, where I am pursuing my doctorate. This summer, I am concentrating on studying for my comprehensive exams and sending out articles for publication, so my schedule is flexible. I've decided to use some of this unstructured time to exercise more often, by taking advantage of Purdue's newest bauble, the France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center, known as the "CoRec." This past Sunday, I went to check out the new gym.

I am a man prone to hyperbole. So please believe me when I say that I don't exaggerate: I was literally agape for much of the time, as I explored the CoRec. I realized that the name CoRec was not going to cut it. This was no mere gym. This was a Gleaming Fitness Palace. Back in my younger, stupider days, I joined a fancy gym in Chicago. It was posh, with lots of young go-getter professional types piling in to do a little chiseling. Let me tell you: the CoRec puts that gym to shame. It makes that gym look like the old skanky weight room dungeon I used to go to at my local Y. Of course, go-getter professional types have money, and Bally's is a for-profit entity, and Purdue's primary population of 18-22 year olds do no have money, and neither does the State of Indiana or its meager allotment of funds for higher education. But these are details.

The Cordova Recreational Sports Center is five stories and about 338,000 square feet— not a misprint— of Gleaming Fitness Palace. I don't say "gleaming" loosely. Like most new construction at American universities, the GFP is a beautiful melding of glass and steel, designed, no doubt, by some pricey architect.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

It really is lovely to look at. It looks like... money.

Of course, you don't go to the gym to admire the architecture and interior design. You go to the gym to work out. And there is quite possibly nothing that you want to do, exercise wise, that you can't accomplish at the GFP.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

There is, of course, row upon endless row of the latest fitness equipment, the cutting edge in treadmills and rowing machines and stair steppers and arc trainers and ellipticals and the like. I ran on the treadmill today and amused myself with the built-in television, which I suppose is there in case the dozens of hanging flatscreens don't suit your fancy. (There is an endless number of TVs in this building, even several in each of the three major locker rooms.) When I bored of that, I turned on the virtual personal trainer, a chipper digital lady who gave me encouragement and info about my simulated run up a mountain course, which was animated on the screen in front of me. When that proved tiresome, I played Solitaire. Not kidding. I didn't take advantage of the iPod connectivity or the built-in heart monitors or dozens of other features, but hey! It was nice knowing they were there.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

And of course there's a vast collection of weights in every shape and size imaginable, barbells and dumbbells and kettle bells, presses and stations and cages galore, Smith machines and cable pulls and dip stations and chin up bars, absolutely everything you need to rhythmically grunt your way to a better body.

It's not just that all this equipment exists. It's all the different places you can use them. There's the immense Colby fitness space (14 TVs!). There's the powerlifter's paradise in East Fitness. There's the Scifres Functional Fitness area— be sure to check out the Endless Rope machine and stretching cage. There's the Fitness Loft, for people in the hurry, not to be confused with the Fitness Pavilion, for people looking for seclusion, not to be confused with the Fitness Mezzanine. If none of these suit your fancy, try Upper Fitness! Of course, there are plenty of personal trainers ready to make appointments to really amp up your workout.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

Of course, machines and weights are but a small part of the total fitness world. You can play on one of our many, many indoor basketball courts; I think I counted 20 separate hoops, but I got pretty distracted while trying to count them all. Or you could play racquetball in one of the half dozen courts. Or volleyball, or badminton, in spaces designated for those purposes. Or indoor soccer. Or indoor hockey.

Or you could run on not one but two separate indoor tracks!

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

Or how about the climbing wall, which I had heard about from my students? When I saw it, I thought, yeah, that is impressive.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

Ah, but little did I know. That was merely the bouldering wall. That wasn't the climbing wall. No, the climbing wall was a ways down the hall. Staffed with a couple of chipper young undergrads, the climbing wall loomed above me as I peeked in. Or really, peaked up, all 55 vertical feet of climbing surface, complete with rope harnesses and pulley system. It loomed above me.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

Not enough? Hey, there's more. Need a separate spinning studio? Got one. Need an array of punching bags and other equipment for the "Combative Sports"? Got 'em. Special spaces for aerobics and dance? Naturally. Hey, even the fencing club gets a room "striped with fencing pistes." It's all here. Sadly, you can't run indoors on turf.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

In that building! Sorry, I didn't mean you couldn't run on indoor turf at Purdue. (What do you take us for, plebes?) I just meant you can't do it at CoRec. You have to go next door for that.

Of course, in these enlightened times, just working out is a small part of fitness— or, sorry, wellness. So if you need to relax and cool down, why not take advantage of some of the other facilities, like one of three saunas? Or schedule a massage? (In completely unrelated news, I have been having a hard time with my student's sense of entitlement and self-definition as customers.) Or hey, why not check out some cooking lessons in the demonstration kitchen? (Yes. A demonstration kitchen. Yes.) Or perhaps what you need is a dip in the pool.

Boy, I wonder why college is so expensiveS

Sorry, not the pool. One of the pools. The pool in the CoRec isn't the only pool; what kind of cow college do you think this is? The Boilermaker Aquatics Center, located on the other side of the CoRec, holds the competition pool, diving boards, heated diving well, its own locker rooms, etc. No, I'm talking about the CoRec's pool. The fabulous wrap-around pool that is overlooked by the atrium, one described in as having "three lap lanes, 26 person spa, vortex, two water basketball goals, water volleyball and much more." That spa has heated water and a Jacuzzi function. And, yes, you read correctly above: the pool has a vortex area, a feature that creates a downward suction that you can swim against for fitness. I plan to, in the Vortex Challenge class! I can't wait, actually.

Because of course there are an endless number of classes, yoga and Zumba and Pilates and boot camps and kickboxing and Blast This and Power That and as many kinds of organized fitness activity one can imagine, all staffed with bright, smiling teachers. These classes are not to be confused with Club Sports, which are not to be confused with Intramural Sports, which are not to be confused with varsity, NCAA sports, which of course have many of their own facilities, such as the 15,000-person basketball arena or 60,000-person football stadium.

When you're done, you can relax in the beautiful atrium, equipped with WiFi (natch) and charging stations and yet-more TVs. You can buy yourself an overpriced smoothie from the Freshens refreshment station! Consider using the towel or locker service, and remember you can rent or buy a whole variety of equipment for your fitness needs.

Of course, it's not all cheery news in the land of Purdue's physical infrastructure. Take Heavilon Hall, which houses the departments of English and Linguistics and Audiology and Phonology, as well as the Purdue Indigenous and Endangered Languages Lab and the James Berlin archive and many other collections and facilities, and hosts thousands of students as they take one of our several hundred sections of Introductory Composition, our most widely-taken course, as well as hundreds of others. I'm afraid the building is old and dilapidated and crumbling, rife with asbestos, and generally in a state of disrepair. It's a core academic building, where students are taught to express themselves in writing and how to orient their texts to suit their communicative needs, skills necessary for literally any academic fields. But I'm afraid that doesn't really rate. There's talk of it finally being replaced. I hope they're right. After all, a new building would do what university buildings are supposed to do: house student learning and scholarly research. Doesn't need very much at all, either; give us a couple dozen desks and chairs, maybe a computer with a projector, and we're good. But I'm afraid we don't have much use for a juice bar.

We could, though, put an academic's name on it. I'd have loved it if Dr. Cordova's name graced a new English building. She's an astrophysicist, herself, but we value scholars and scholarship around here, and she's as bright a light as they come. You could cut her CV in half and have two stellar academic careers. Instead, they put her name on the gym. At least she got a Freshens in her honor.

But never fear! If the massive investment in tight student abdominals does not move you, right across the street, they're building a new Gleaming Palace! Not, sadly, an academic building. The new Center for Student Excellence and Leadership is explicitly not for academics, as it's being called a "third space," apart from home and school, by the administrators who multiply across the campus like cicadas. What do you do, in a third space, in this time of economic malaise, stagnant wages, exploding student debt, and generational hopelessness? What's a Center for Student Excellence and Leadership for, exactly?

You know, I don't have a fucking clue.