No more gym class

Why The University dropped physical education credit requirement in fall ‘13

CARMINE GERRITY-GEMEI
Sports Editor

The University dropped the three-credit physical education requirement for incoming students starting in the Fall 2013 semester, and members of The University community have mixed opinions about the decision. Current University first-year students and sophomores do not have a physical education requirement, while University juniors and seniors must fulfill a three-credit physical education requirement to graduate.

Douglas Boyle, Ph.D., president of the Faculty Senate, said the decision went through the Faculty Senate and the provost. He said students can still take physical education classes, but the Senate wanted to reduce the number of required credits to graduate.

“The opportunities are there for them (the students) to engage in physical activity, number one; number two, the data shows that they are doing that, by and large; and number three, requiring academic credit for P.E. courses — within our limited credited hours — didn’t seem like the best use for that,” Boyle said. “So all of those factors together made that decision.”

Boyle said The University was not focused on its budget, and faculty reductions were not a point of emphasis in the discussion to eliminate the physical education requirement from the curriculum. He said a major point was being competitive with other schools of the same quality, most of which require fewer credit hours than The University and do not require physical education courses.

“To make ourselves more market-competitive and to get our credit hours down, that was really the driver,” Boyle said. “The cost factor never came up in the discussions I was involved in … The market really drove a lot of it.”

Exercise Science Department Chair David Hair said he thinks some students may miss out on the fitness instruction provided in the classes because they are not required to take the classes any longer.

“I would like to have the requirement stay,” Hair said. “When this was all going down, we talked about the Jesuit ideal of the spirit, mind and body. We thought they were eliminating one of those three factors.”

Students can now take up to three credits of gym and have that count as a general elective. Hair said this was somewhat of a compromise. The Provost-Student Wellness Initiative has been created to act as a form of replacing the physical education requirement and would incorporate Student Formation & Campus Life and intramural sports.

Hair said advancement on the program has slowed down.

“With Dr. (Harold) Bailie leaving, Dr. (Patricia) Harrington serving as an interim provost last semester and the new provost, it has kind of been put on hold,” he said.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Boomgaarden, Ph.D., did not respond to an email request for an interview. Boomgaarden was not the provost when the decision to cut the physical education requirement was made.

Andrew Stuka, faculty specialist in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport, said he did not know exactly who was involved in making the decision to eliminate the requirement, and the reasoning behind the cut would be all speculation on his part. He said he met with the provost a couple of times about the matter, but knew it was not going to go anywhere. The viewpoint of the Department of Exercise Science and Sport, Stuka said, was that it would be a bad idea to end the requirement if The University wanted to be one that promoted health, wellness and the overall individual.

“They thought otherwise, I guess,” Stuka said.

Stephen Klingman has worked at The University for more than 40 years and is currently the associate director of athletics and an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport.

He said it is a shame that the requirement was dropped because there is value in having a physical education requirement.

“Whether it’s lifetime sports or whether it’s getting your mind off academics and coming over three hours a week to work out, obviously I think it had value,” Klingman said. “When they cut the credits back, they just didn’t feel it was as important as the academic classes.”

Both Stuka and Klingman said several students have told them that if the physical education courses were not required, then they would not take them and would not see the benefits they saw after completing the course. The two said the number of physical education courses offered will continue to decline because of decreasing student demand to take the courses now that they are not required.

Hair, Stuka and Klingman said that because the requirement was dropped, the students who they would most like to target, such as those who could be overweight and less likely to engage in physical activity, may never sample the physical activities offered in the classes.
Exercise science major and women’s soccer team standout Gianna Vitolo said the requirement should not have been dropped, but students who participate in a sport should be exempt from the requirement.

“The people that are athletes, the people that are active are the people that are going to the gym. They don’t need that requirement because that’s just their lifestyle and they just do it on their own,” Vitolo said.

“But the people that don’t go to the gym, the people that don’t get that activity, I think that it’s important for them to have that requirement because it has such an effect on your health and well-being.”

Vincent Sottile, a first-year student who plays basketball in the Byron Recreation Complex and works out in the The University fitness center regularly, said he would like to have the requirement and is never going to take a physical education class if it is not required.

“I think they should have the requirement. Even now I’m seeing I kind of slacked off at the gym and if they had that (requirement), it forces you because you have your set time. You have to do it, you don’t have a choice,” Sottile said. “So I think it’s good to have something like that.”

First-year student Colleen Farrell, who goes to the fitness center nearly every day, said she likes the fact that she does not have to take a gym course.

“I don’t think a gym class should be a requirement … I feel like it’s not a class, like how many people take gym seriously in school? I feel like no one did (in high school),” Farrell said. “It’s just a waste of credits.”

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