In 2016, the College of William and Mary announced that the Activity Program, a part of the kinesiology department, would no longer be offered after the spring 2018 semester. Since then, current students and alumni have written letters and drafted petitions to prevent this phase out from happening.
The initial decision came from the desire to modernize the department and a concern that campus construction plans would one day mean that there was no space for courses like yoga and ballroom dance. This meant that the three, non-tenure eligible faculty members who teach these classes would find themselves without a job come June 2018.
Dean of Undergraduate Studies Janice Zeman sent a campus-wide email April 9 announcing a partial change of plan: these courses will still be offered in the fall as a set of one-credit, pass/fail Wellness Applications.
In her email, she wrote that a set of these classes had already been added for next semester, but will come with a $100 fee per course. Current options for fall 2018 include Bicycling for Wellness, Humans and Nature, Yoga, Finding the way of Flow, Taijiquan and Qigong Tai Ji, Mindfulness and lastly, Flourishing. As of now, instructors have not been set for this course, but Zeman said they would be decided upon in the near future.
“We are excited to offer an even larger array of classes for the Spring semester,” Zeman said in the campus-wide email. “In addition, we are in the process of setting up sections of Ballroom Dance.”
The original Activity Program, part of the kinesiology department, was a set of classes designed to provide instruction on outdoor and physical activities. They were based on the techniques of health and wellness as specified in the Surgeon General’s report on physical activity and health.
Kinesiology Department Chair Michael Deschenes said at the time of the 2016 announcement that the department was shifting away from courses based on physical activity toward ones focusing on nutrition and clinical backgrounds to meet the standards set by other universities.
Additionally, the Campus Master Plan calls for the eventual demolition of Adair Hall. The kinesiology department would then move to the last addition to the Integrated Science Center, of which construction has not yet begun. When this move happens, there will no longer be facilities for several of the activity-based courses.
In an effort to preserve the Activity Program, students such as Carolina May ’18 worked to draft a petition to keep the activities classes. In response, May was told that the administration had taken note of the student pushback and was working to develop an alternative program.
“Originally, the only thing we had been told was that the activity program was ending,” May said. “At the time we started the petition, most students seemed aware that the classes were no longer going to be offered, and most students seemed unhappy about it. But there had been no announcement or email from the administration explaining why this change was taking place. … We wanted to show them that the students do care about these classes and that the elimination of the program would not go unnoticed by the William and Mary community. … We ended up with 989 signatures and hundreds of thoughtful comments from past and present students.”
Earlier in the fall, Dean of Arts and Sciences Kate Conley said she was working to develop a new integrative wellness minor that would be housed in the kinesiology department. This minor would offer four-credit courses focusing on different branches of wellness, and one-credit of each course would come from courses based on physical activity. In the process of developing the Wellness Applications courses, work to get this minor approved was halted, but Zeman said they are resuming that work and plan to discuss it more over the summer.
While these new courses will offer similar concepts — and in some cases, are the same as courses already offered — the College’s three kinesiology activity instructors will not be eligible to continue teaching in the spring. According to Zeman, Virginia law mandates that all retired faculty have a six-month separation period before returning to teach. They would not be eligible to return until the spring 2019 semester.
“We appreciate the influential role that the Activities Lecturers, Randy [Drake], Kim [Whitley], and Kelly [Charles] have had in these classes and in students’ lives,” Zeman said in an email.
There are currently six openings for instructors for the Wellness Application courses, and Zeman said there are instructors currently going through the official application process to become adjunct instructors. She said that some of these instructors are from the community and some are currently employed at the College.
Although discussion of the integrative wellness minor has halted, Zeman said there was interest from faculty across several departments to find a new way to offer activity-based courses to students following the official discontinuation of the Activity Program.
“We recognize that the activities courses provide many benefits to students and have been in discussions for over a year about ways to build on the original courses,” Zeman said. “Although the process was challenging at times, we modeled a truly trans-disciplinary approach and are happy with the result that we believe is a solid first step in developing a strong array of classes that build on the original activities courses.”