Generations of Cornellians have participated in a unique tradition: jumping feet first into the deep-end of a pool to swim three consecutive laps.
The swim test has been a graduation requirement for all men as of 1905 and all women as of 1920. But Cornellians will not be making a splash this semester. Due to the pandemic, the University has waived the required swim test for the fifth time for seniors graduating in spring 2022.
There will be no swim test clinics this spring, but this decision is subject to change depending on the course of the pandemic, according to the Physical Education Department.
Hadar Boker ’22 is graduating this spring but completed the swim test requirement during her freshman orientation. She said that the test was inconvenient, but she ultimately didn’t mind participating.
“I’m a third generation Cornellian, so the swim test was a tradition I heard about a lot from my mom and grandma,” Boker said. “It was just one of those funny Cornell things to tell your home friends about.”
Abby Drucker ’23 also completed the swim test during her freshman orientation in fall 2019, which was the final time it was offered for first-years at large. She remembers the test being difficult to complete, as she hadn’t swam for years prior to the examination.
“It was so exhausting, but it felt like an accomplishment, and me and my friends joked about it as the first test we passed at Cornell,” Drucker said.
Drucker also sees the swim test as an opportunity for incoming first-year students to bond.
“I saw a lot of people for the first time that I would become friendly with later,” Drucker said. “Although it was kind of awkward standing in your bathing suit in front of 50 people and struggling to swim across the pool, I look back on it and laugh.”
The Class of 2024 is the first class that did not have the opportunity to complete the swim test requirement. Helen Newman pool lifeguard Emory Walsh ’24 feels indifferent about the temporary loss of tradition. While she thinks that swimming is an important life skill, she said that her main concern is the potential for increased work hours when the requirement is eventually resumed.
“It’s going to be a lot of work for the lifeguards, as you are going to have three grades needing to complete the requirement in a short timeframe,” Walsh said.
The Faculty Advisory Committee on Athletics and Physical Education decided to postpone this semester’s swim test requirement as of now. However, according to Prof. Frank S. Rossi, chairman of the committee, discussions about the test are still underway.
“This decision is related to the challenges COVID has created and simply extending the pause on the requirement from 2020 when it was implemented,” Rossi wrote in an email to The Sun.
While the tradition of the swim test has been lost for some Cornellians, only time will tell whether the requirement will float on in the future or if it is dead in the water.