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Do phys-ed classes make the grade?

Complaints about UMBC’s physical education requirements are common amongst students for a variety of reasons. Whether students take issue with the expense, the inconvenience or the low-quality gym experiences, many do not see the value in the program. Regardless, three gym credits are required for a degree.

Terrence Hale, a senior studying computer science, took two gym classes over winter break: billiards and tennis. The cost of the extra credits was was a big concern for him.

“I had to take two classes at the same time, so it was three credits at four hundred dollars per credit,” Hale said. “That was a whole lot for two classes that you don’t have to take at other universities.”

While Hale enjoyed his classes, he had mixed feelings about their value.

“The tennis coach was awesome because he’s a coach. Tennis is what he does,” Hale said. “For pool, as long as [the instructor] saw you hit the cue ball a couple of times you were good. It was not the greatest use of my time.”

Christopher Ritz, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, took billiards with Hale as his first gym class at UMBC. He agreed that his instructor was not engaged with the class, which created a lackluster experience.

Ritz said, “it is too much money to be spending on a professor that essentially is just going to sit around.”

He also does not think the a gym class is helpful in achieving fitness goals, especially not over a shortened semester.  

“I could possibly see some value in it if you took it in a spring or fall where it was over fifteen weeks rather than three weeks,” Ritz said, “doing this in three weeks, doing pool in three weeks, nobody’s getting in ridiculous shape.”

Coach Liam Bowen, the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for UMBC’s baseball program, feels that the aim of UMBC’s physical education requirement is important for all students. Bowen teaches a variety of classes throughout the year including volleyball, cardio fitness, and walking and jogging and feels that the attitude that physical education classes are unimportant is understandable but narrow.

“I think no matter what you choose to do, being a healthy and active person is going to help you be better at it,” Bowen said. “I think in practical terms it’s a secondary thing that supports whatever education people are getting in other disciplines.”

Bowen acknowledges that UMBC has a very motivated student population, and that it can be easy to focus in on only one aspect of education.

“You can sometimes get tunnel vision and lose sight of being a well-rounded person,” Bowen said. “If the PE classes here help round out someone’s experience then I think they’re really worthwhile.”