University of Mary Washington coaches are fearing potential job cuts due to a new proposal to remove the physical education requirements from the University’s general education curriculum if passed later this month.
In a letter written to the curriculum committee, Athletics Director Dr. Ed Hegmann states that a majority of the Athletics faculty believes that if the physical education requirement is not included in the new general education proposal, student enrollment in Physical Education courses will decrease – potentially resulting in untenured, full-time teaching and coaching positions being reduced to part-time positions or eliminated altogether.
However, University officials say that this concern is unfounded.“That is not what will happen,” said Dr. Rosemary Barra, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. “If you look at any of the non-tenured faculty, they’re coaches. The person was hired primarily to be the coach of a sport. They’re also teaching courses. Unless they’re not coaching a sport, not teaching a class will not cause them to lose their position.”
At this time, only six members of the Department of Athletics are tenured. The remaining six faculty are on Renewable Term Appointments, as tenure has not been available to University lecturers since the 1990s.
Barra added that while the proposal might result in fewer sections of Physical Education courses, sports are still important to the University and that no coaches would lose their jobs just because they are teaching a lighter course load.
“It is very important that the Athletics program be a viable program,” she said.
In addition to concerns over faculty job security, Hegmann’s letter also addressed what most of the department believes to be the necessity of physical education to a liberal arts education.
“A sound Liberal Arts Education should include the development of the mind, body and spirit,” wrote Hegmann. “Instruction in the skills necessary to create and sustain a sound body, through many forms of physical activity, is certainly a necessary component of that education. Instruction and Education are the key elements in this process at UMW and should not be confused with students participating in unsupervised general physical activity.”
Hegmann said that although he wrote the letter on behalf of the views of most of the department, his own personal view on the benefits of requiring students to take physical education courses is one of indecision.
“I was just split right down the middle,” he said. “I saw the value in both sides. My instincts tell me that teaching less would allow the coaches to do more activities related to coaching. I saw more pluses than minuses for the faculty. But some of the minuses were on the student side.”
UMW senior Meg Swecker said she feels that having a physical education requirement is beneficial for students.
““It gets students like myself, who wouldn’t normally go to the gym, to go to the gym,” she said. “And it gets me active and makes me feel good.”
Virginia colleges and universities that currently incorporate physical education in their general education curriculum include James Madison, Longwood, and Christopher Newport. Physical education is not required to graduate from William & Mary, the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech.
The current proposal to revise the University’s general education curriculum, which will be voted for approval by a faculty vote in November, would not only eliminate the physical education requirement but would also eliminate freshman composition, as well as the Environmental Awareness, Race and Gender Awareness and Global Awareness requirements. The proposal also includes new requirements, such as the completion of a first-year seminar and the fulfillment of an experiential learning requirement, such as an internship.
Nevertheless, it is still possible that the University could retain the physical education requirement. A memorandum from the curriculum committee, dated Oct. 28, has recommended to the faculty senate that the physical education requirement be added to the proposal as an amendment – in part because of Hegmann’s letter, and also because the committee said that there is not enough support to justify removing the physical education requirement.
The curriculum committee will present the proposal, as well as the proposed amendment, to a vote by the faculty senate on Nov. 7. If passed by the senate, it will then be subject to a final vote of approval by the entire faculty on Nov. 12.