Opinion: Student Government buys $2,598 massage chairs

As budget cuts loom over the horizon, should SG be investing in luxury goods?



Screenshot taken from massagechairs.com.

The Human Touch Whole Body 5.1  is a massage chair, which according to the description on its page provides: “relaxation with an unparalleled massage solution of the patent pending FlexGlide™” and there are two of these majestic pieces of upholstery coming to FAU.

On Jan. 23, the same day the University Budget Appropriations Committee met to discuss which programs under Student Government would be cut, Student Government decided to purchase two massage chairs for a total of $2,598. Each chair cost just under $1,300.

The motorized upholstery was acquired for the upcoming “Owl’s Nest,” a room that will be in the Student Union as a means to provide a quiet space for students to study and relax.

SG appears to have the best of intentions for students, stating in their agenda that their mission is: “To continue to serve the students, increase the efficiency of the Student Union, and provide new opportunities for commuter students,” but to spend over $2,000 on furniture is an absurd notion, especially while the budget of every single program under SG from the LGBTQA resource center to the Student Veterans Center is facing budget cuts.

Is this purchase even reasonable within the justifications of the proposal?

The resolution (BRHB 15-02) makes it clear that SG is hoping to provide a quiet space for relaxation and studying, but most students use the Student Union to play video games, billiards, lounge around or to get involved in extracurricular clubs, not to relax.

As a matter of fact, there’s already a space in FAU for quiet relaxation and studying, where at times students even see it fit to sleep, the library.

To justify the purchase, SG also cited the Best College Values article that placed FAU’s Student Union as #14 in the country. The article praises FAU’s student life hub for providing social and academic resources to students, capable of enriching a mind for the future. Even assuming that chairs essentially hold the capacity to provide all the listed attributes, they did not have to be $1,299.

In the resolution, the purchase is also justified by how much the student population would “benefit immensely” from the Owl’s Nest room, serving students and providing commuters with new opportunities. What new opportunities besides peace and relaxation – which can be achieved in a library – are not explained.

The  resolution to purchase two chairs for $2,598 does not seem to be done out of bad intentions, but it does possibly showcase a form of conspicuous consumption, an excuse for SG to spend money and showcase cool toys while more pressing financial matters lurk in the background.

As an “investment” for the Student Union, buying chairs displays a short-term solution to a long term macro-economic problem, rising tuition costs and housing. Motorized upholstery with pending orbital massage technology does sound enticing, but it will not persuade students to continue living on campus.

At least the shipping is free on all orders over $50.