Mercer’s mandatory gym class is as patronizing as it is useless

Written by: Ken Napier

You know what I hate? Running at someone else’s behest. That’s why I can’t stand the HPE required credits. As a college student, I don’t need to pay 500 dollars for someone who grew up watching Gunsmoke to tell me to wear a condom and eat my veggies. If I haven’t figured it out by now, do you really think anything else is going to make it sink in?

The lab portion is even more of a joke, with hapless students being forced to change in dingy and cramped locker rooms before getting prodded with calipers and run around a basketball court that smells like floor wax and armpits. Please, if I cared about personal fitness I’d use the free gym located in the same damn building.

Originally part of the Gen. Ed. program, Health and Fitness was separated into its own division in the early 1990’s as part of an effort to achieve statewide consistency in the Gen. Ed. department. This made sense at the time because a majority of transfer institutions don’t have an HPE requirement and the class, in most cases, does not transfer. Perhaps because these classes are just recycled high school health lessons, wrapped in a garish 500 dollar price tag?

A recent VOICE poll shows that 90 percent of the 30 Mercer students surveyed thought that the requirements were unnecessary, with 76 percent stating that they didn’t learn anything new. Student sentiments ranged from second year Liberal Arts student Miranda Santiago’s “it did not make me more healthy or active” to a more aggressive “those courses are bullshit” by Will Leavy, second year Liberal Arts student.

“It was pointless and has absolutely nothing to do with my major” said Michael Hernandez, second year Business major.

The presence of non-transferable, mandatory health classes do nothing to stifle the feeling of Mercer being “13th grade” and fail to combat the already scrutinized image of community colleges.

As of 2008, Mercer is one of eight NJ community colleges [out of 19] that has an HPE requirement, but is the only college that has three required credits [Camden, Middlesex and Gloucester have one credit requirements]. Furthermore, none of the classes offered are worth more than two credits, forcing students to take [and pay for] at least two unnecessary classes.

This wastes time that could be spent working towards a degree and valuable transferable credits. Is this because Mercer thinks its student body is fatter, or do they just need the extra cash to pay for fancy signs and make up for otherwise inadequate health-care?

According to an a faculty member who has served on the Curriculum Committee but who asked to remain anonymous because he worried for his job safety, “The full-time professor who teaches HPE –also the president of the faculty union– is known to have a death grip on those classes. No matter how many times other faculty members have politely suggested moving to either a one credit version [of HPE] or simply making it optional –which has been floated a number of times– he has gone ballistic.”

There is nothing redeeming about HPE, it doesn’t even transfer. “If I have to pay for the class and it’s mandatory to take, my credits should transfer” Hernandez said.

The only things that make me run are rabid dogs, ice-cream trucks and my own whimsical, fun-loving demeanour. When it comes to dealing with the completely unnecessary HPE requirement, I’d rather be chasing an answer than fleeing a problem.

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Ken Napier

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