Raise your hand if you applied to this school because you heard Mercer was the Ivy League of the South.
Mercer, academically, is a rigorous school. It has been ranked in the top 15 percent of schools in North America by the Princeton Review. We’ve got Mercer on Mission, a Health Sciences Center and multiple resources for students pursuing a career in medicine or health.
Ironically, there are several things that make Mercer an unhealthy school that might have slipped our attention. Luckily, there are ways to make this medical, health-niched school practice what it preaches.
1) Make flu-shots free...for students
According to the CDC, more people died from flu-related respiratory illnesses this flu season compared to last year. The good news is that Mercer’s Student Health Center provides flu shots. The bad news is that students have to pay $27 for them, according to Nurse Kaye.
It should be in the school’s best interest to make sure their students, the changemakers of the world, the ones that don’t get paid to be here, are protected against influenza.
College students have sick friends. They go to lunch with their sick friends and even share rooms with their sick friends. On top of stress and unhealthy eating choices offered as meal swipes, college students should be the first persons to be offered free or severely discounted flu shots on a college campus. Which brings me to my next point:
2) Put Grilled Chicken as a meal swipe for Chick-Fil-A
Currently, at Chick-fil-a, a meal swipe buys you a fried chicken sandwich. Fried. We know how nutritious fried foods can be. And by nutritious, we mean dumped in artery-clogging oil. One of the healthiest options available, a grilled chicken sandwich, can only be bought through dining dollars.
Obtaining healthy and fulfilling food in general at Mercer has just been a challenge. Whenever I talk about going to the caf with my upperclassmen friends, I get a stank face, and I don’t know why. I’m trying to put on muscle, and with having only two meals a day on my Any-14 meal plan with no kitchen, I can’t spend my meal swipes any kind of way.
The meal swipe at Einstein’s is basically bread. Panda Express offers brown rice and teriyaki chicken which is great, but not enough. Farmer’s Market is great too, but it’s just not enough food for me. And a Which Wich sandwich (without greasy chips and just water) will fill up ⅓ of my stomach. So the caf it is.
3) Tying in intramurals with academics
One way Mercer University can change the world is by changing the connotation of a successful student. Mercer should put less of an emphasis on assignments and grades and more of an emphasis on exercise and overall wellness.
There are hundreds of students pursuing health degrees, but how many of us regularly go to the gym? How can we be the game-changing, hardworking physicians that nurse people back to health if we do not practice what we preach?
Intramurals have been actively recruiting more students to join the fun. And students that exercise tend to get better grades. What if Mercer authority figures supported intramurals by offering an incentive for those that go to the gym or participate in intramurals? Encouraging students to exercise might not seem world-changing, but it is life-changing.
4) Update/fix the gym equipment
One of the first things that disappointed me at Mercer was the gym. We don’t have a squat rack. You can ask any bodybuilder or powerlifter. If your gym doesn’t have a squat rack, it’s not a real gym.
Instead, we have a Smith machine that is almost always “temporarily out of service.” Don’t get me wrong. There are benefits of using a Smith machine. But the machine has to work.
The gym at Mercer is beginner friendly, which is what a small college campus needs. But if something is broken, and keeps breaking and breaking, please throw it out and get something more useful.
Colleges, in general, are relatively unhealthy places. On top of obsessive busy work, STDs and people that sneeze into their hands, colleges are swarming with risk factors. But Mercer, for what it’s worth, does not have to be like general colleges. Mercer staff, faculty and students have the agency to make college a little less scary and a lot more healthy.