University of Chicago Ends Swim Test Requirement

A swim test requirement for undergraduates at the University of Chicago, which had been mandatory for nearly 60 years, was eliminated this fall.

Physical education and athletics courses also are no longer a requirement at the university. The changes were announced in a Sept. 13 memo delivered to University of Chicago students by Dean John Boyer and Karen Warren Coleman, vice president for campus life and student services.

Rather than enforcing the requirement, which had been in place since 1953, the university announced last week that all undergraduates, graduate students and professional students can sign up free of charge for a program called Fit Chicago, which had been an optional program in which students paid a nominal fee to participate. Activities in Fit Chicago include cardio kickboxing, Pilates, core training, yoga and Zumba.

“Such approaches will reinvigorate our fitness and recreational offerings while improving access for students who would not have participated in the past,” Coleman says.

The swim test at the University of Chicago required that undergraduates swim continuously for 100 yards with no time limit. By achieving certain fitness scores, incoming freshmen could test out of the physical requirements, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

Students had complained in the past of the awkward nature of the test, which was held en masse during orientation week. Those students whose religion prohibited them from coed swimming received an exemption, as did students who had medical issues, such as allergies to chlorine.

Crain’s and the Chicago Tribune report that only a handful of universities still require a swim test from undergraduates. Those schools, according to those reports, include the University of Notre Dame, Dartmouth College, Cornell University, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.