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Mandatory PE: Is it really needed?

From Harvard University to Stanford University, the Ohio State University to Northwestern University, and Vanderbilt University to the University of Virginia, there is no physical education (PE) requirement to be seen. The list of PE-less institutions is seemingly endless: Princeton University, the University of Chicago, Yale University and other top institutions are devoid of it. In fact, only around 32% of colleges and universities in the United States have mandatory PE—including Case Western Reserve University.

With most institutions eschewing PE, it is hard to understand why CWRU continues to stick with its physical education (PHED) course requirement. After all, squeezing in a PE class is a tall order for college students who are already managing a plethora of breadth requirements, major coursework and extracurriculars. PE classes are not even offered after 3:20 p.m. or during summer break, forcing students to somehow juggle PE between commitments—all for a zero-credit hour class.

Furthermore, few first-years or second-years are even able to snag a PE class during course registration, defeating the rationale for mandatory college PE. Rather than wide-eyed underclassmen familiarizing themselves with the campus and its workout facilities, the majority of PE classes are filled with weary upperclassmen scrambling to complete the requirement before graduation. Rather than creating a new exercise habit at the start of their college years, students are made to disrupt their preexisting routines to accommodate a PE class. They have become yet another box to check off instead of an important introduction to college life and an opportunity for staying healthy during the next four years.

Take me as an example. Only this fall semester, in my third year, was I able to enroll in PE classes. Before, most were taken up in previous waves of course registration, and the few that were still open were held at odd times that simply would not fit in my schedule—and oftentimes, they were for a sport I was not keen on participating in. And even though I was able to squeeze them in after my major courses this semester, doing so has come at a price: I no longer have enough time for my own preferred workouts. Going to and from PE class takes over the time I could have been using to work out for longer. I’m not even exercising at the time I would enjoy, resulting in a poor workout experience.

My experience is not unique. How can CWRU expect to encourage physical fitness when PE classes are offered at incompatible hours and largely taken up by upperclassmen? After their PE requirement is fulfilled, students are more likely to revert to their old college routines—whether that entails working out regularly or forfeiting exercise for their studies—that is, if they have not already graduated and left campus altogether.

It is time for mandatory PE at CWRU to go. Removing the PE requirement would undoubtedly lift a large burden off students, allowing them to focus on their other commitments. And while doing so, CWRU could better encourage physical fitness. Instead of maintaining PE classes, CWRU could lower fees on exercise classes and memberships and invest more in their fitness centers, ensuring that all students are motivated and able to access the facilities, just as other colleges and universities have done. Then, students would have the freedom to choose when and how they want to work out, not barred by any costs. Not only that, CWRU could begin to encourage all facets of healthy living, such as having a nutritious and balanced diet; the meal plan at CWRU is limited and could use an overhaul.

But if CWRU still cannot follow the lead of top institutions and part with their PHED courses, why not offer them at later times during the school year and in the summer? It would at least give students more flexibility during the academic year and might allow them to take PE earlier during their time at CWRU.

Until then, we are left racing after PHED courses in SIS.

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About the Contributor
Aambar Agarwal
Aambar Agarwal, Social Media Editor
Aambar Agarwal (she/her) is a third-year student racing toward majors in neuroscience and psychology and a minor in public health. In her free time, she can be found dabbling in art when not turning the pages of yet another book. She also enjoys hiking with her pals while inhaling pollen in the Metroparks.

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