Physical education swim requirement dropped, new wellness options added

The Class of 2026 will revert to the pre-COVID graduation requirement of three PE or Wellness credits.

by Lauren Azrin | 27 minutes ago


Following the temporary suspension of the 50-yard swim test requirement for earlier classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college eliminated the 50-yard swim test for all students beginning in the Class of 2026, according to Senior Associate Athletic Director of Physical Education and Recreation Joann Brislin. Beginning in Class of 2026, students will once again be required to complete three PE credits for graduation — although Brislin says there will be new wellness offerings to help meet that requirement.

Due to COVID-19, the College waived all PE requirements for the Class of 2023 and lowered the number of PE credits required to one for the Class of 2024 and two for the Class of 2025, per Dartmouth’s PE scheme website.

“Fortunately, we are now operating at full strength, so for those graduating after Spring 25, [so] The requirement is the typical three credits,” Brislin said. “We’re back to normal. We are back to what was always expected before COVID.”

The swim test was eliminated through multiple faculty committee votes and a final vote by the college’s entire faculty, Brislin said.

Patrick Dolph, a biology professor and chair of the committee on instruction at the time the proposal was made, explained that the swim test was conducted over a century ago to ensure Dartmouth students – all male at the time – were prepared for military service. The requirement disproportionately impacted color students.

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“It did not test swimming competency or provide increased water safety for students at Dartmouth or after graduation,” Dolph wrote in an emailed statement. “In previous years, a small number of students with limited swimming skills had to swim to pass the swim test. These were predominantly colored students and this essentially added an additional degree requirement for these individuals.”

Professor of neuroscience and current chair of the COI, Tor Wager, stated that eliminating the swim test is consistent with the college’s mission to provide student choice. Wager added that the COI does not intend to downplay the importance of swimming ability, but rather to give students more agency in meeting athletic or wellness requirements.

Another change introduced this year is the ability to earn PE credits through wellness classes. This will expand that list of existing opportunities to fulfill a PE credit, which currently includes varsity sports, association sports and dance groups, as well as a range of different fitness classes and outdoor programs, according to Brislin.

Student Wellness Center director Caitlin Barthelmes said the PE graduation credit will eventually become the Wellness Education Credit.

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“There’s something like the realization that there’s going to be a transition period, both for being a wellness education loan designation and for building out the infrastructure and expanding the offering,” she said. “For this year at least, we’re labeling things as physical education/wellness education.”

With this shift, students can now “meet those graduation requirements through a range of courses, mini-courses, workshops and one-to-one tutoring offered by units across campus, including the Student Wellness Center,” Dolph wrote in an email statement. Barthelmes added that the athletic department worked with the Student Wellness Center on these changes.

According to Barthelmes, these additional wellness offers will also change the crediting of study achievements. While some courses earn one credit per course, some new wellness options are partially credited, accumulating 12 wellness activities to earn one credit. Examples of these activities include yoga classes, mindfulness classes, and wellness check-ins.

The Student Wellness Center publishes a sampler on his website, which Barthelmes said will allow students to “choose their own adventure” and combine and match experiences to earn points. According to Barthelmes, another advantage is that the students can try out new wellness techniques.

“This gives students the freedom to reflect on what works for them and what doesn’t work for them and orient themselves to find a practice that might serve them better,” Barthelmes said.

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Barthelmes added that the “final plan” is to have a committee that can consider proposals from other departments alongside the SWC to offer their own courses or workshops that are able to meet the wellness training credit.

Dartmouth Triathlon team member Molly Fried ’25 said she appreciates these expanded options, especially the mindfulness offerings.

“I think mindfulness is a really important way to get people excited about the idea that you can actively move towards a better state of well-being through mental health,” Fried said. “I’ve found a lot of psychological relief through athletics and club sports, which have helped me meet my sporting needs. But I also fully understand that not everyone does, so I really appreciate those other options as well.”

Barthelmes and Wager noted that the expanded opportunities to earn wellness credits reflect a shift that has been developing for years to expand the definition of health on campus beyond athletics.

“We had heard for a number of years that the students wanted it [the] Graduation requirement to reflect the reality that there is a multitude of ways to support well-being, of which physical health is of course crucial, but there are other dimensions as well,” said Barthelmes. “It was important for the students to have presented this philosophically in the requirement.”

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