[April 2017] College P.E. requirements still present at many schools

By: Alexa Moro ’18

Staples seniors are aware of the academic and social rigors of college but may be unaware of the physical demands. A physical education requirement, sometimes including a swim test, still exists at many colleges and universities.
The freshman year swim test as part of physical education only exists at a few schools, including Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Emory and Washington and Lee.
“Everyone here knows our school is a little old fashioned but we love it for how it is,” Washington and Lee student and Staples graduate Zack Azadian ’15 said about the school’s still-standing physical education requirements.
Many schools removed physical education requirements within the past few years. In fact, according to Cory Weinberg, author of “Study Skills, Not Swimming,” researchers at Oregon State and Western Oregon Universities found that in 1988, 63 percent of colleges required their students to take physical education. However, in 2010 that dropped to 39 percent.
Notre Dame was one to contribute to this decline as they eliminated their standard physical education requirements and replaced it with a more “wellness” focused physical education curriculum in 2015, according to Margaret Fosmoe, author of “Notre Dame dropping phys ed requirement for freshmen.”
Other schools have also shifted to focus on wellness, including Staples. “I think the class should be wellness based which encompasses everything from physical health to mental and emotional health as college is a big transitional time for people in all areas of health,” physical education teacher Cari Moore said
Besides swimming, many colleges have looked to provide a variety of physical education courses to satisfy students’ interests. For example, Abby Lustig ’15 and current Cornell student, says that she got to choose which P.E. classes to take. “There are typical team and individual sports offered like basketball, tennis and soccer, but there are also courses on skiing, outdoor education, yoga and massage, mental health, self defense, etc. In my first year, I took Walking Tours, where we travelled all around Ithaca once a week, and bowling,” she said.
Colleges often vary on the number of years a students must take physical education. “One year is probably enough for most students to get a grasp on the concepts, but it would then be up to them to practice a healthy lifestyle,” Moore said.
None of the schools’ websites provide an explanation for why a swim test is necessary, but Ken Torrey, the director of physical education at Columbia, said that the requirement of a swim test “falls nicely within the philosophy of the school.” He believes that physical education counts as a core subject, according to Lisa Anderson, author of “Swimming test afloat at a few colleges.”
Azadian agrees: “Our school is a liberal arts school which preaches being well rounded. I don’t see a problem with having swimming be a part of that,” he said.
As for college students, the physical education requirements may initially be seen as an unnecessary hoop through which they must jump, but they can still appreciate the benefits. “While the courses are especially annoying for people who already exercise on a daily or weekly basis, I think they’re a great opportunity to try something new and meet new people,” Lustig said. “So I’m actually even considering taking another one my senior year.”