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Club sports lobby reevaluation of PE credit policy

With a room full of guests including representatives from six club sports and school administrators connected with athletic and circular policy, the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Senate met last Monday to discuss the contentious issue of graduation credit for club sports. Specifically, the issue on the table was Carleton’s policy of allowing students to earn four physical education credits towards graduation through varsity sports while only allowing students to receive two through club sports. Carleton’s graduation requirements currently require four physical education credits earned through any combination physical education classes, varsity sports and club sports.

Captains from various club sports expressed their frustration with the current PE requirement, and were followed by athletics administrators Leon Lunder and Terry Rivers who explained their reasons for the current policy. The meeting culminated with a vote on a Senate resolution requesting that the school allow four credits for at least the most organized of club sports. The resolution was defeated by a small margin.

By and large, club sports captains had the same complaints. They argued their athletes were just as committed to their sports as varsity athletes were to theirs and this reason, they said that they should not be given the additional burden of required PE classes. Amanda Hess ’08 of the women’s rugby team told senators and guests that her rugby players already get much more physical activity in a typical week than the physical education requirement asks for:

“I don’t need an extra two hours a week on top of my seven to nine hours a week to be physically fit” she complained.
Another club sport athlete, lacrosse player Eric Paul ’08, spoke from personal experience about the line drawn between club and varsity sports at Carleton: he is also a linebacker on Carleton’s varsity football team. He said that while varsity sports traditionally require a greater time and energy investment, the line is not as clear as it once was:

“The gap is narrower by the day” he said.

Athletics and Recreation Director Leon Lunder responded to comparisons between varsity and club sports by explaining that varsity sports are under the direction of faculty, while club sports are more informally organized and often directed by students. He said that there are problems with leaving a student’s entire PE graduation requirement in the hands of a student captain:
“There are issues historically with people being left off of rosters. Trying to get the credits recorded becomes a laborious process. Sometimes a student does not know that he has not been receiving credit until he finds that he cannot graduate.”

But recent changes to Carleton’s online registration put the onus on individual students to verify that they are registered to receive credit for club sports.

“There is a streamlining since last year where club athletes have to register online like academic classes” explained Director of Recreational Sports Terry Rivers.

Club captains and senators also argued that the distinction between club and varsity sports is not as straightforward as Lunder described it: women’s lacrosse is a club sport but is coached by varsity women’s soccer coach Keren Gudemen, while martial arts like aikido and karate are called club sports but have non-student instructors and can be taken four times for credit like varsity sports of physical education classes.

As the senators debated whether or not to pass a resolution asking the school to reconsider its club sports policy, they were reminded that even an immediate change to the policy would not have a very long-lasting effect: the school is currently in the middle of a reevaluation of its curriculum, and will likely be using an entirely new set of graduation requirements by the fall of 2009, in time for the graduating class of 2013.

Physics Professor Bill Titus from the Education and Curriculum Committee attended the meeting and told senators that passing a resolution might not be the most effective way to address the problem. He recommended that they consider communicating student opinion to the the faculty-led design teams charged with writing the new curriculum:

“It’s possible there won’t be a PE requirement, it’s possible that there will be a PE requirement. It’s all up in the air.” he said. “I think it would be just as effective to talk to the design teams.”

In the end, the majority of senators voted against the resolution. However, a few senators spoke against channeling student opinion through the design teams.

Senator Alex Popper (’10), a member of the club sports committee which wrote the resolution argued that waiting for the new curriculum is unfair to current club sport athletes:

“There are student athletes this term who will put in 20-30 hours and not receive credit. We won’t want this to be ignored because there is a bigger issue going on. . . . Thirty percent of the student body participates in club sports. As we saw, they are not happy with the way things are being handled” he said.

Popper was opposed most vocally by Senators Evan Rowe (’09) and Pablo Kenny (’09) who defended the current club sports policy. Rowe suggested that the inequality between club and varsity sports could be fixed by lowering the maximum physical education credits for varsity sports:

“Perhaps we’re looking at this the wrong way” he said. “Perhaps varsity athletes shouldn’t be able to receive four credits; perhaps everyone should have to broaden their horizons and take different kinds of classes.”

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