Fencing Club seeks repairs, equipment following air conditioning leaks

Two air conditioning leaks in Russell Gymnasium caused flood damage facility space of the Fencing Club leaving them with less than ideal conditions. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Piper Rutherford | Staff Writer

After two air conditioning leaks in Russell Gymnasium that caused flood damage to equipment and the facility space, Baylor’s Fencing Club is having difficulties functioning and retaining member participation.

Houston sophomore and Fencing Club president Telman Aliyev said the first flood occurred over summer 2023. The second flood happened a few months later, as members discovered it when they returned from winter break earlier this year.

“We found a huge puddle of AC fluid soaking our equipment and saw that mold was growing on it,” Aliyev said. “The water showered all of our equipment — far more than we can spare — so we lost nearly all of our inventory.”

Aliyev said he reached out to Campus Recreation multiple times beginning in September 2023 about reimbursing the club or providing it with new equipment. He said he sent a list of what needs to be replaced — including fencing jackets and pants, underarm protectors, epee and foil blades, gloves and body cords — along with information about five different brands and manufacturers of the equipment.

However, he said Campus Recreation was not responding.

“Because we were not getting a response, we went to meet them in person before spring break, and they made the same empty promises to us that they would look into it,” Aliyev said. “Since then, they have continued to ignore our concerns.”

Dr. Kim Scott, director of Campus Recreation, responded to the concerns in an official statement via email.

“We are aware of the two leaks that took place in their storage closet, which is technically an AC closet, within the past 12 months, and we have followed protocol by putting in an official work order for repair both times,” Scott said. “We have also identified an alternative space for the Fencing Club to store their stuff and are working on obtaining additional secured cabinets, which should happen prior to the end of this semester.”

As for an ideal fencing environment, Aliyev said the Fencing Club has made do with the basketball court in Russell Gymnasium, but it does not give members the authentic sensation of being at a fencing competition.

“In fencing, we need a strip, which is a long metal mat, so that the blades of the swords can not only be safely grounded, but it also makes scoring for referees less difficult,” Aliyev said. “While on the wooden court we have been using, we find ourselves constantly slipping and sliding around, which is an additional safety risk.”

Colleyville sophomore and Fencing Club member Dillan Marshall said that although the club has offered him a social group since freshman year, most of the members have not been showing up to practices in the last few months due to the circumstances.

“When it comes to fencing, it is very skill-based, so the majority of time, you are interacting with people in the club and getting feedback from them or collaborating with one another,” Marshall said. “I have forgotten these past few months about how nice it is to have that social group on campus.”

Marshall said the Fencing Club not only brought him a sense of community but also gave him a chance to participate and excel in a sport beyond what he previously thought he was capable of.

“I enjoy both the physical and mental aspects of fencing, which is not what you would expect a typical sport to be like,” Marshall said. “Although I am not personally that athletic and did not do any sports in high school, I have been able to enjoy my time learning how to sword fight with other fencers.”

However, Aliyev said he fears for the future of the Fencing Club.

“Right now, I cannot uphold my promise made to members, which is to teach and train them about how to fence,” Aliyev said. “It is disappointing … that this promise will continue to go unfulfilled until we get the help we have requested and desperately need.”