Keeping the masses at arm’s length

While the government shut down has adversely affected programs that affect the general public and the poor, speaker John Boehner has ordered that the Congressional gym that is open to only members of the House of Representatives be kept open. The same is true for the Senate gym where presumably majority leader Harry Reid made the call. The House gym features a swimming pool, basketball courts, paddleball courts, a sauna, a steam room and flat screen TVs. But the gym that is used by staffers has been closed.

But don’t think that these supposed servants of the people have a cushy time. One congressman complains that they are suffering too because they now have to wash their own gym towels.

This also raises the question of why members have an exclusive gym in the first place? Why not one in which everyone who works in Congress can use?

Their sense of entitlement is extraordinary. But sadly, Congress in not the only institution where the top people feel the need to minimize their contact with the plebeians. The University of Chicago apparently barred uniformed service staff access to the Administration Building elevators from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.. (They may have got this idea from Congress which has special elevators that only Congresspeople are allowed to use.)

The issue came to a head when two locksmiths with medical conditions were told to repair locks on the fourth floor of the Administration Building during the day. Stephen Clarke, the locksmith who originally responded to the emergency repair, has had two hip replacement surgeries during his 23 years as an employee of the University. According to Clarke, when he asked Kevin Ahn, his immediate supervisor, if he could use the elevator due to his medical condition, Ahn said no. Clarke was unable to perform the work, and Elliot Lounsbury, a second locksmith who has asthma, was called to perform the repairs.

Lounsbury also asked Ahn if he could use the elevator to access the fourth floor, was denied, and ended up climbing the stairs to the fourth floor.

The two workers filed a grievance and the university president rescinded the policy, probably because of the negative publicity.

Universities are becoming increasingly corporate in the way they operate and that is not a good thing.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    Actually, I heard that quite a few congressfolks these days live in their offices (rather than renting a pricy Washington apartment) to save money. Which is laudable, actually. So they use the gym for showers.

    Which is another good argument to shut them down. Maybe when they all start to get stinky, they’ll have more incentive to solve things. At the very least, the way they present themselves will start to match the way the country sees them.

  2. colnago80 says

    It is my understanding that the Supreme Court also has a gym; Justices Ginsburg and Kagan are reputed to be the biggest users.

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