Can graduate students be granted free or reduced-rate access to the gym during reading days and the finals period?

Date: December 2019


Dear Dean(s),

It’s that time of year again! I appreciate the various “final stretch” offerings from CAPS (on breathing strategies and calming exercises), the Big Red Barn (the De-Stress Fest with muffins and caffeine and various activities), and Cornell Minds Matter (an event for puzzles and coloring, a free yoga class, and other offerings), but what I really need is some exercise to stay healthy and well rested! I typically buy a year- or semester-long gym pass but it didn’t fit into my budget this year, and with snow on the ground, it’s gotten tough to cycle and run outside.

What do you say to granting graduate students free or reduced-rate access to the gym during reading days and the finals period? Exercise, above all else, is the perfect antidote for end-of-semester stress.

Thanks for considering,

Need to Stretch in the Final Stretch


Dear Need to Stretch in the Final Stretch,

Thanks for your Ask a Dean question. It’s great that you are prioritizing self-care and exercise at this time of year to help get through the last weeks of the semester.

The office of Student and Campus Life started a new program last year to make the Cornell fitness centers open to all students, with or without a membership, for the last portion of the semester. This year, open access began Wednesday, December 11 through the study and finals period. 

Additional options you might consider include skating at Lynah Rink or Cass Park (for a low fee); checking out equipment (basketballs, volleyballs, badminton equipment) to use in the Helen Newman gymnasium, or other free recreation such as open lap swimming at Helen Newman or Teagle or table tennis at Noyes.  You might also check out the variety of fitness & health apps available. Or try walking during the open hours in Barton Hall (call 607-255-7775 for open hours on the days you are interested, but it is generally available from about 8 a.m. until about 10 p.m. except for track & field practice hours 4 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.).

And local fitness centers offer discounted day passes for graduate students:

Island Health and Fitness Offers Discounted Day/Guest Passes with Your Cornell ID

  • Day/Guest passes at the Downtown and Community Corners locations, normally priced at $12, are sold for $6 during holiday season period of December 16, 2019 – January 19, 2020.
  • Employees and graduate students must show their Cornell ID card for discount. This discounted deal is only available to Cornell employees and graduate students and does not include their spouses/partners.
  • Check the Island Health and Fitness site for hours of operation.

The Ithaca YMCA Offers Discounted Day/Guest Passes with Your Cornell ID

  • From December 16, 2019 – January 19, 2020, Cornell employees and graduate students produce their Cornell ID at the Y Welcome Center in order to be admitted to the Ithaca Y with usage in accordance with current policies, at a special rate of $8/day. Patrons may participate in activities at the Y including fitness classes, lap swimming, fitness center usage, and general facility usage.
  • ChildWatch is available at the non-member/hour rate, and by pre-registration only, payable upon checking in at the Y Welcome Center, observing the current written policies.
  • Classes with fees, including instructional swim classes, may be registered for at the non-member rate, and only for a full five-week session. Participation is by registration only, not on a drop-in basis, for instruction swim classes, which differs from group fitness classes.
  • This special holiday arrangement is intended for Cornell employees and graduate students only; family members of Cornell employees and graduate students pay the regular daily participation fees.

Please check the YMCA of Ithaca’s website, or call the Y Welcome Center at (607) 257-0101 with any questions. In addition, the website may be consulted for schedules of aquacize and fitness classes, hours of operation, and facility policies.

I hope these suggestions give you some ideas about how to stretch in the final stretch!

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School