Notre Dame freshmen last class required to take physical education classes


This school year marks the end of a long-time requirement at Notre Dame.

This is the last time freshmen will be required to take physical education classes as they exist at Notre Dame. Instead, those credits will be replaced with lecture classes starting next fall.

Sophomore Aaron Degagne was shocked when he heard the university was getting rid of its physical education department altogether.

"I wanted future Notre Dame students to experience that version of P.E.," Degagne says.

Right now, freshmen are required to take two semesters worth of physical education. The Contemporary Topics classes, which teach health, nutrition, and mental and physical wellness among other topics, are part of the required curriculum for first years.

Starting next fall, first-year students will attend lectures instead.

Notre Dame is the latest of hundreds of universities to do away with physical education requirements over the past decade. The university says the recommendation came from a committee made of both faculty and student council members, and it believes the new classes offer a broader education.

There are seven different topics: Orientation to University Life, Strategies for Health and Wholeness, Community Standards and Cultural Competence, Strategies for Success in the Classroom, Discernment (Academic, Spiritual and Vocational), Cultivation of Spiritual Life and Mind-Body Awareness/Physical Activity.

While health and physical activity are still on the list, P.E. faculty member Stephanie Ryckman isn't sure how they'll fit in to the new curriculum.

"We don't know much about the new program," Ryckman says. "I think that's because the committee and the university, they don't know much about the program as well. They've told us that."

As it stands, physical education is the only department that interacts with every single first-year student at Notre Dame. Because of that, Ryckman says, her department has been able to help students who might have otherwise been overlooked.

"We reach out to students who really, really need us who might not get reached out to when we're gone. Students who have suffered from disordered eating, students who are suicidal," says Ryckman, adding that P.E. faculty have walked students to the health center in years past.

And with her department closing, Ryckman's not sure how long she'll get to keep her job, but she's choosing to stay positive.

"I don't know if I'm going to be there that second year, or the third year, or the fourth year, I just have to focus on this year, helping these students," Ryckman says.

The university is also doing away with its swimming test requirement, but students are still allowed to take swimming classes and other P.E. classes through the university's RecSports department next year.