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P.E. requirements replaced

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Incoming University freshmen in fall 2015 will participate in a new program that will replace the current model, eliminating the physical education courses and swimming requirement, according to an April 17 press release.

News_Graphic_FreshmanClassEmily Hoffman
“On the recommendation of the Academic Council, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, has approved two one-credit courses for first-year students that include components that focus on physical and mental wellness, spirituality, cultural competency, academic success and discernment,” the press release stated.

Hugh Page, vice president, associate provost and dean of the First Year of Studies program, said these changes were recommended by the ad hoc Committee on Physical Education Requirement Alternatives.

“The ad hoc Committee on Physical Education Requirement Alternatives (ACPERA) proposal represents the final phase of a three-year process involving two separate university committees,” Page said. “Input at various stages in the deliberations of both bodies was received from the Faculty Senate, the Undergraduate Studies Committee of Academic Council (USCAC), faculty  and students. Both USCAC and ACPERA had student representation.”

The new classes will enable a wider range of campus educators to aid freshmen throughout the school year, Page said.

“These new classes will allow us more directly to involve a broad spectrum of campus educators in orienting first-year students to undergraduate life and in helping them to acquire the disciplines of the mind and habits of the heart that will enable them to thrive and to take full advantage of the opportunities for intellectual and spiritual development at Notre Dame,” he said. “We also see in them an opportunity to call the attention of first-year students to the educational charism of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which emphasizes formation of the whole person.”

Page said the new classes are similar to the current Contemporary Topics classes, but will significantly expand the material covered and allow more time for student-teacher interaction.

“The classes will have seven themes as their overarching foci: Orientation to University Life; Strategies for Health and Wholeness; Community Standards and Cultural Competence; Strategies for Success in the Classroom; Discernment (Academic, Spiritual and Vocational); Cultivation of Spiritual Life; and Mind-Body Awareness/Physical Activity,” he said.

“They also provide an opportunity for student engagement in small groups. Some of these issues are addressed in the two-course Contemporary Topics sequence we now have in place, while others are not. A few have been included in earlier incarnations of CT, but were discontinued.

“Our hope is to provide an opportunity for each area to be engaged in a manner that is sustained, appropriately challenging, contemplative and meaningful,” he said.

The new classes will be organized in a variety of ways, Page said, including through students’ residence halls.

“We anticipate using available slots throughout the traditional class day to arrange plenary and small group breakout sessions, in some instances via residence hall clustering,” he said. “At present, logistical details are fluid. Our goal is to organize these classes so as to promote dialogue among the larger first-year student body as well as within residence halls about issues that are crucial to student growth and the strengthening of the fabric of our common life.”

Page said that the changes will result in the closing of the Physical Education and Wellness Instruction Department at the end of the 2014-2015 academic school year.

“We are working closely with faculty and staff impacted to locate other opportunities for employment,” he said. “Our goal is to ensure that the transition is managed in a manner that is at once professional and pastorally sensitive.”

The committee’s plan also includes continuing to offer a wide variety of life, sport and mind-body activity classes through the Office of Recreational Sports, Page said.

“The plan also includes … developing a communications plan that encourages regular physical activity on the part of students and encouraging the use of electronic portfolios on the part of students to log their activities and note progress toward individual wellness goals,” he said. “We hope, as well, to develop a system of electronic badges to recognize student achievement in these areas.”

Diane Scherzer, associate professional specialist in the physical education department, said the 12 instructors in the physical education and wellness department will be teaching physical lifetime activities in the current wellness program for the next school year.

“We have three people who are on a one-year contract, and after the 2015 school year they will no longer be employed, unless they find another job within the University,” she said. “Everybody else who has six years of experience or more, they are going to be given one year in First Year of Studies, in some capacity, for the 2015-2016 school year.

“It is yet to be determined what position they’ll be receiving, and then after that, I do believe they want [Human Resources] to help us find other employment within the University, but that is not guaranteed.”

Scherzer said she is concerned the new classes will not allow for students to learn new sports.

“I’m concerned about the students not having the opportunity to learn how to swim, take dance classes, squash, golf, ice-skating — so they can skate with their kids one day — curling class, fencing,” she said. “RecSports doesn’t offer any of those, as far as learning how to get halfway decent at them. They teach fitness classes, spin classes, but they don’t teach people how to acquire new skills.”

The current physical education courses allow students to try sports they have never experienced before, Scherzer said.

“Basically, every kid that goes through our program is supposed to take something they haven’t had experience in before,” she said. “I’m truly worried about the students. How are they going to learn new lifetime skills and use them for a lifetime, if they are not taught them?”

The changes, which will eliminate the traditional swim test, also take away a learning opportunity for students, Scherzer said.

“Ninety percent of the students who took the swim test and failed were glad that they took swimming, that they learned how to swim and were more comfortable in the water,” she said. “It makes myself, and everybody in the department, disappointed and sad the students won’t have this opportunity anymore.”

Scherzer said she thinks the new classes, which do not provide a time for physical activity, will have a negative impact on students’ health and stress levels.

“Many of my students have told me ‘This is a stress reliever, and I’ve met friends outside of my major, I’ve met friends who are from the other side of campus, and without physical education classes I would have never met those people,’” she said. “A lot of them have said that because of PE class they’ve had a scheduled time to participate. And in doing so, hopefully they will keep that up. Here, it’s a de-stresser, it’s social and they learn an activity.”

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About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine
  • Mike Connolly

    These new classes look like Barney for college students.

  • Stephen

    Between the exposure to new sports, the plethora of new people I met and friends I made as a freshman, and the pure enjoyment I got out of just doing something active instead of hitting the books, PE was a great experience. It truly is a shame to see that it is going to be replaced. Aside from the physical and social benefits it offers freshmen, it is such a core foundation at ND! Notre Dame and the military academies have such a storied history, much of it centered around athletics and physical education. I hope that a reconsideration can be made with regards to this decision. Think of the positives PE offers to the student body before trying to change it. There are many of them, and for future classes to miss out on them would be terrible.

  • Hannah Ha

    From my freshman year, I don’t remember a single thing that was taught during those two rotations of physical wellness classes… but I have SUCH fond memories about my ice skating and team handball classes!

  • Eileen

    How sad – eliminating yet another tradition that made Notre Dame different from most
    other schools.

  • Honest girl

    the new classes are going to be great to catch up with sleep…..PE classes are the best to make new friends, release stress and have fun… we don’t want more LECTURE!!!!!!

  • Mark Lavery

    I would love to know who in the world thought that teaching a non-swimmer a skill that could save their life was no longer worthwhile.

  • Tom

    I can’t believe this. The swim test helped make ND unique. This is a shame. I will probably use more of the knowledge gained in my Latin Dance, Golf, and Scuba courses than any other courses I took Freshman year…. no joke

  • Tim

    As the world is moving less social and more closed-off with the rise of techonology, ND decides to get rid of the curriculum that taught people to be social. Now is the time when the younger generation most needs some time outside the classroom with personal interactions.

  • Aaron

    If you disagree with the decision to eliminate the PE department and required physical activity at Notre Dame, I urge you to sign my petition on this issue at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-to-save-the-required-physical-activity. Thanks in advance for your support.

  • Alex

    This is absurd. More required blow off classes. Good one Notre Dame!

  • Todd

    If I wanted the state school experience I would have taken it! 30 years ago I took Social Dance” and “Ice Skating”. Two unique opportunities that I would never dreamed of attempting. As recently as 2 weeks ago I was describing the swimming requirement to visitors on campus, and telling them how I wished now that I had not passed the swimming test originally so I could have LEARNED to become a stronger swimmer later in life. PLEASE look to reconsider this decision. Our students don’t need to be in another classroom with models of strategies for healthy activities – there is no better opportunity for learning than DOING.

  • Geo

    Having always been more cerebral than physical, after being accepted at ND, I was dismayed to learn I would have to still participate in PE after high school. As someone who always felt awkward in PE, I am grateful I was forced into it at ND in spite of my grumbling. In particular, I was pleased to learn how to play tennis which turned out to be more than just hitting a ball over a net. Different racquet grips and learning how to serve all gave me the confidence to play after graduation with some level of confidence that I wouldn’t make a complete fool of myself. PE got me off my butt and away from the books where I was more comfortable.

  • knittygrrl

    This is sad. I recognize the needs to address a broader spectrum of holistic student issues, but at the expense of PE? First, knowing how to swim is a basic life skill that everyone should have. Period. (It is a facet of ND that I have shared with many, MANY non-Domers over the year as a glimpse into the unique culture that WAS Notre Dame.) Second, I am not an especially athletic person, but having the chance to “taste-test” a few sports was, well, AWESOME my frosh year. Third, my very first opportunity to play golf was through the ND PE program. Although I’m a lousy golfer, at least I know the basics and etiquette (enough not to completely embarrass myself in a work-related golf outing) – and my husband & I have enrolled our middle-school-age son in a golf program for the last 2 summers (I KNOW I would not understand or respect the value of golf had I not done a rotation of it at ND). ND PE does not stop with the student – it actually transcends generations.