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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

We must petition for PE

Hard questions need to be asked about the University’s decision to eliminate the physical education department and replace the long-standing program and swim requirement with a vague and irrelevant mandatory credit class for incoming freshmen. This decision was announced in mid-April of last year with very little student input and was even a complete surprise to the PE department employees, whose jobs are now in jeopardy. In 2012, a committee was convened to look into possible alternatives for the PE department. Their recommendation options were as follows: merge the PE department and Rec Sports, retain the PE department and replace the requirements with a credit-bearing course available to the entire student population and reduce the PE requirements to a one-semester wellness class. In 2014, an ad hoc committee with one student representative chaired by Dean Hugh Page was established to examine these options. Strangely, their final recommendation was not any of the options previously put forward. Instead, the proposal that was presented to the Academic Council (passed with a thin margin and many absences) was a yearlong credit-bearing course that included vague topics such as “discernment,” “cultural competence” and “mind-body awareness” and completely eliminated the PE department at Our Lady’s University starting with the class of 2019. Late last year, I started an online petition to help save the Notre Dame PE department that has now gathered more than 1,000 signatures of alumni, current students and faculty. In addition to the signatures, the petition also gathered more than 100 strongly worded comments such as “PE was one of the remedies to my stress freshman year,” “Physical education was one of my best memories” and “Talking about fitness doesn't make you more fit.” Dean Page and Fr. Jenkins, in a world with shocking obesity rates and an ever-increasing amount of academic pressure on students, why is the school deciding to replace a stress-relieving aspect of First Year Studies with a credit course that will add to the workload of students and decrease time spent on physical activities? During the summer, I was in contact with Dr. Vincent Friedewald, Notre Dame alum and an associate editor of the American Journal of Cardiology. He was shocked that Notre Dame has decided to eliminate the PE department, which is an essential part of the Notre Dame experience, and put students' health at risk. He shared my concern that the Rec Sports department is currently extremely unequipped to take over the responsibilities of physical activity. While Dean Page claims Rec Sports will be overhauled, the department currently has no director and no instructions on how this will take place. I have also spoken with Dennis Stark, former Irish swimming coach and class of 1947. He has been trying to get alumni involved in this issue as well, but was stonewalled by the administration when he requested to present a case to President Jenkins. As a current student, I believe that we have both the right and responsibility to question the administration’s decision on this issue. Earlier this year I was working with student government, but they are committed to working with Dean Page to move forward with the new plan. I know there are other pressing student issues (such as the Commencement decision), but I believe all students both past and present should be concerned about this issue because of its implications for future students. I urge you all to sign my petition online (Google "ND PE Petition") if you feel strongly about this issue. My contact information is on this petition, and I urge you to contact me if you have any further suggestions. I have done extensive research on this decision and would certainly be willing to discuss further. “Vita, Dulcedo, Spes.”

Aaron DeGagne


Zahm House

Nov. 20

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.