November 28, 2012

Cornell Defends Swim Test Tradition in Wall Street Journal Article

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Cornell’s swim test requirement caught national attention Wednesday when it was the focus of a Wall Street Journal article that highlighted the decreasing number of universities that require students to swim laps in order to graduate.

The article describes Cornell –– along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and the University of Notre Dame –– as one of the few remaining institutions in the country that employ a swim test as a graduation requirement.

It cites other schools, such as the University of Chicago, that are eliminating the swim test provision in order to allow its students more flexibility in fulfilling their physical education requirements. Colgate University, the article said, “sank its swim requirement in 2005 with a bit more of a splash, after a faculty committee called it ‘arbitrary and indefensible.’”

Though the piece said that Cornell officials were unsure of the origins of the swim test, they still defended its continued importance.

“Anything that prevents people from dying needlessly is a valuable skill,” said Fred DeBruyn, director of aquatics and assistant physical education director at Cornell, in the article.

But the article cited the complaints of one student, Jessica McSweeney ’13, “who hasn’t been in a pool much since grade school” and has yet to complete her swim test.

“I guess it’s a noble skill to have, but I don’t intend to be a water-going person,” McSweeney said in the article.

Corey Minerva ’10, who postponed the test until his senior year, echoed her sentiments.

“You go through four years of classes. I don’t think three lengths of the pool should decide whether or not you get a diploma,” Minerva told The Journal.

Original Author: David Marten