Massage chairs that were previously in the Tyler Haynes Commons were relocated to the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness after high usage caused repeated breakage. 

Alison Keller, director of the Center for Student Involvement, was responsible for the addition of the massage chairs in the Commons. The massage chairs broke three times in spring 2018, she said. 

Each time a massage chair broke, it took a minimum of three weeks to fulfill the repair order. 

“The chairs keep breaking because the students love them so much and keep using them,” Keller said. 

The massage chairs were moved to the gym before the fall semester began so the facilities department could take better care of them, Marti Tomlin, director of university recreation, said. Currently, only one of the two massage chairs is in service at the gym, while the other one is getting a remote replacement. 

Since their relocation, the massage chairs have not broken, Tomlin said. Although there is no formal usage tracker to see whether usage has declined relative to when they were in the Commons, the massage chairs are constantly being occupied by faculty members and students, she said. 

“Because the massage chairs were so highly utilized in the Commons, they were breaking a lot," Tomlin said. "At least we can make sure they remain operational in the gym."  

Several students are pleased with the relocation because the massage chairs complement gym activities.

“I love the massage chairs in the gym," junior David Qin said. "I come here to run and clear my head and now, I can wrap up a good workout with a nice massage." 

The massage chairs first arrived on campus in December 2017, after University of Richmond staff made strides to push forward with President Ronald A. Crutcher’s strategic plan regarding student well-being

To make progress on the strategic plan, Steve Bisese, vice president of student development, and university staff members are taking a holistic approach on student wellness issues by bringing alternatives to clinical therapy. 

Twenty-five percent of incoming students have already been seeking therapy, Bisese said, and UR has to accommodate for increasing rates by hiring more therapists and clinicians. 

“While we aren’t trying to limit students from using our therapists and clinicians, we want to place reminders on campus so students pay attention to their mental well-being on their own,” Bisese said. 

Tomlin came up with the idea to bring massage chairs to campus to serve as effective reminders for students to take a break and rest so they can perform better in their classes. 

The funds for purchasing the massage chairs came from Recreation and Wellness’ budget because it has revenue-generating services such as selling gym memberships, Tomlin said. 

“We want to make sure we turn that money back around and give it to the students,” Tomlin said. 

Tomlin’s issues primarily revolved around placing the massage chairs around campus. Department heads and building owners must approve of anything being placed into their respective buildings, Tomlin said. Many buildings were unable to house them because of the space the massage chairs require, she said. 

Keller had found space for the massage chairs in the subsection of the Hanging Lounge, but placing the chairs there incurred an additional cost to install a new wall outlet that was equipped to power the massage chairs, she said. 

Working with Tomlin, Keller made the area a central reminder of student wellness by having her team paint “Spider Rest Stop” on the wall near the massage chairs. 

But some students seem troubled by how the university spends money and say they believe the money spent on wellness could be better used elsewhere.

“Whenever I use these chairs, I always get confused as to why the school decided this was the best way to spend money rather than hiring more economics professors so I could get a seat in a class I wanted to take,” senior Toan Nguyen said.

Despite the massage chairs being removed from the Commons, Tomlin said she and Keller were focused on bringing wellness reminders to the building. The Commons is currently going through a redesign phase, and bringing relaxation amenities is being discussed. 

Although the massage chairs are currently in a loud gym, Tomlin mentioned that this is their “temporary home” until the well-being center is established in fall 2020. 

Contact contributor Hershal Chaddha at hershal.chaddha@richmond.edu.