Focus on access and equity for students guides changes physical education

The department is working to maximize its ability to offer popular physical education courses, which are funded entirely by student-approved measures

People swimming in pool
The swimming pool is expected to re-open in early 2021 and the tennis courts on the westside of campus will reopen once some maintenance is completed.

In an effort to provide even greater access to in-demand physical education classes, expand course offerings, and align resources with the intentions of student-approved fees, the UC Santa Cruz Athletics and Recreation Department is making operational changes.

Physical education courses are funded entirely through student-approved measures that require the department to steward those resources by maximizing programming and complying with the intent of those measures.

“Physical education courses are an important part of the transformative experience,” said Sue Harriman, director of the Athletics and Recreation Department. “We are focused on serving our students and ensuring that their fees are offering them the best possible experiential opportunities.”

The UC Santa Cruz Athletics and Recreation Department is committed to offering programs and activities that promote leadership, lifelong wellness, and experiential learning. Harriman said the restructuring and operational changes will not impact the quality of its courses. Additionally, students will not have fewer available PE classes—there will be a greater variety of courses and more sessions of the most popular ones. 

The department will continue to offer PE courses in scuba, aikido, dance, and many other areas, and is looking to begin offering new courses, such as Introduction to Racquet Sports, in which students learn how to play 5 racquet sports,” Officiating 101, an introduction to serving as a campus or community referee, official, or umpire; and more. The department will also no longer offer courses that have had continued low or no enrollment over the past five years. 

Beginning in fall 2021, UC Santa Cruz will hire most physical education instructors through by-agreement appointments, which outline their duties and the campus's expectations.

This requires some staff positions to change to per-course positions, which is a more sustainable model that will help support the long-term health of Athletics and Recreation. Though the hiring process is changing, Harriman said instructors will need to have a proven track record in teaching and hold all the required certifications.

The operational changes will enable the department to expand the ways that it serves students and continue investing in its facilities.  

Over the past several years, the campus has invested in the dance studio, including resurfacing the floor, and plans to continue using this facility for dance instruction, Harriman said, addressing unfounded concerns that there were plans to install astroturf in the dance studio. 

The department is also recommending several P.E. courses qualify for academic credit and expects all P.E. courses are taught with clearly defined learning outcomes with a syllabus that outlines the progressive nature of the curriculum and demonstrates learned skills.

To maximize existing funding and the positive impact on students, the department is reducing duplication between P.E. courses, Fitness programming, and Adventure Recreation, and trying to minimize any additional out-of-pocket costs for students. There will be a limited number of times P.E. courses can be repeated by students so that there’s broader access to students who have not been able to participate in popular courses. 

Harriman said educational and recreational equity underpins this decision. The department wants to make sure all students can participate in recreational or athletic activities, regardless of their financial situation.

“For many students, this will represent their first opportunity to engage in athletic related activities that support their well-being at UCSC,” Harriman said. “The goal is to promote physical activity, encourage health and wellness, and build community. This program is a great opportunity for students to build networks, friendships, and sense of belonging through participating in extracurricular activities on campus.”

The swimming pool is expected to re-open in early 2021 and the tennis courts on the westside of campus will reopen once some maintenance is completed, Harriman said. 

The department is also making preparations to begin offering outdoor group exercise classes, boating, surfing, kayaking, and day hikes on the campus. Physical education courses will resume once the campus returns to in-person instruction.

While UC Santa Cruz has not made any announcements about fall 2021, Harriman said the department is planning to begin offering in-person classes, so long as it’s possible under public health guidance. Scuba is among the courses planned for fall, along with more introductory swim courses throughout the  2021-22 academic calendar. 

“We may not be able to implement too much this summer due to the pandemic but that just gives us more time to plan and consult with the students on what they want,” Harriman said. “Athletics and Recreation plans to come back after the New Year to survey the students in our new campaign #MoreSlugs2021. We are here to serve students.”