As a liberal arts college, St. Olaf has many curriculum requirements known to the student body as General Education (GE) requirements. On St. Olaf’s Student Information System, there are a whopping 22 GE requirements one needs to fulfill in addition to a major in order to receive a bachelor’s degree in four years. At first glance, that seems like a lot, but when you take into account that many St. Olaf graduates credit post-grad success to a well-rounded liberal arts education, it seems much more manageable and worthwhile.
While GEs themselves aren’t awful, the rules and regulations around acquiring them are more annoying. For example, one cannot get the two science credits required from the same department. For non-science majors, that can be extremely difficult and tedious to accomplish. One GE that has been questioned more recently by the student body and student senate is the Studies in Physical Movement (SPM) requirement.
Students at St. Olaf are required to take two SPMs in order to graduate. With everything from rock climbing to fly fishing offered, fulfilling these credits does not sound all that terrible. However, balanced with four demanding courses and extracurriculars, a gym course suddenly becomes a nuisance in a person’s schedule. To make it a little easier for those with more demanding extracurriculars, students on an intercollegiate sports team may receive one of two SPM credits for playing their sport. It makes sense that an athlete who puts a lot of time into working out during the week should not have to do more by taking a gym class. Controversially, however, only students on an intercollegiate sports team have this luxury. Students who participate in club and intramural sports do not.
I should begin by saying that I am under no illusions that intramurals and club sports are in any way as demanding as an intercollegiate sport at St. Olaf. Practicing almost everyday for a few hours, intercollegiate athletes are extremely organized and talented in time management. I am very impressed with anyone who can balance a full course load and an intercollegiate sport. Thus, it is extremely justified that they should be given that SPM credit. In my mind, they should even be given the chance to fulfill both credits through their sport. However, as a club sport participant on the women’s ultimate frisbee team, I’m not sure it’s entirely justifiable that we are not given the same option to receive an SPM credit.
The frisbee team holds practices three times a week, for an hour and a half each. Last time I checked, most gym classes only met two times a week for an hour. So, why should I be forced to exercise for two hours a week when I’m already playing a sport for four and a half hours a week? That’s what it should come down to: time spent playing per week, not whether or not it’s an intercollegiate sport or how demanding it is. Therefore, if somebody played an intramural for at least two hours a week, they too should be given the option to receive an SPM credit.
I realize that giving students who participate in club and intramural sports SPM credit would require enforcing a certain level of accountability. Intercollegiate sports have official coaches who keep track of attendance, a big reason why they are able to count it for gym credit. For intramurals this might be more difficult, but for a club sport there is a simple remedy for this issue. People who wish to count their participation as a gym credit can tell the captains, and the captains can keep track of attendance every week for those people. At the end of the semester, the captains can submit participation records to the school, and the school in turn can decide if it is enough to justify fulfilling an SPM. I don’t see why this is so difficult, and why it has not already been considered.
At the end of the day, I respect the GE system and all of the different departments, subjects and disciplines it will force me to explore. I acknowledge that I wouldn’t go out of my way to take an art class if I did not have to, and this exploration could very well benefit me later in life. I do not, however, respect some of the strange rules and regulations the school has put in place for the GE system. Many club sport members put in a lot of time and dedication to their team, and they should be rewarded for that.
Megan Hussey ’20 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Minneapolis, Minn. She majors in women’s and gender studies.