For over a century, Dartmouth College students have been required to complete a 50-yard swimming test in order to graduate. And it’s not as though Dartmouth was the only highly selective college to require students to know how to swim in order to receive a degree. Cornell University, Columbia University, Bryn Mawr College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, and Swarthmore College are other elite universities that have required students to be able to swim. But, alas, the Dartmouth swimming requirement will be eliminated. Effective with the Dartmouth Class of 2026, this year’s first-year class, students will no longer be required to complete the swim test to graduate. And just like that, a century-old tradition is a tradition no more.
Dartmouth’s Century-Old Swim Test Tradition Is No More
As Retta Race reports for SwimSwam in a piece entitled “Dartmouth Eliminates Swim Test Graduation Requirement,” “Instituted over a century ago, Dartmouth required that students complete a 50-yard swim test in order to graduate. The test was not timed and could be completed at any point during a student’s four years at the New Hampshire-based school. This requirement was already temporarily suspended for previous classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but, after multiple faculty committee votes and a final vote by Dartmouth‘s entire faculty, the test is now replaced by the need for three physical education or wellness credits. Patrick Dolph, a Dartmouth biology professor and chair of the Committee on Instruction, explains that the swim test was originally instituted to ensure that students – all males at the time – were prepared for military service. Dolph also says that the swim test requirement ‘disproportionately impacted students of color.'”
Shame on Dartmouth for Eliminating the Swim Test
We are very disappointed in Dartmouth for eliminating the swim test graduation requirement, for eliminating a tradition that dates back over a century. Knowing how to swim is a vital life skill. Heck, in the Jewish faith, in Talmudic scholarship, instructing one’s children how to swim is specifically cited as one of the three most important things to teach the next generation. And while it’s true in our country that underrepresented minorities are more likely to not have been taught basic water safety instruction — and that a disproportionate number of drownings each year impact underrepresented minorities — it seems crazy to us that Dartmouth would use these facts as justification to elminate the swim requirement. These facts should justify keeping the swimming graduation requirement in place. Shame on Dartmouth for nixing not only a very cool tradition but for its nonsensical justification in doing so.
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