Dartmouth Eliminates Swim Test Graduation Requirement

Effective with its class of 2026, an aquatic-related graduation requirement has been eliminated at Dartmouth College.

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.’ (Dartmouth.com)

“It did not test swimming competency or provide increased water safety for students while at Dartmouth or after graduation.

“In past years, a small number of students with limited swimming skills were required to take beginning swimming to pass the swim test. These were overwhelmingly students of color, and this essentially added an additional graduation requirement for these individuals.” (Dartmouth.com)

Schools that still have the swim test requirement include Cornell University, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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CJ Johnson
1 year ago

Another thing that disproportionately affects people of color is drowning.
The number one predictor of whether a child can swim or not, is whether their parents swim.
Teaching everyone to swim, is good business.

Swim mom
1 year ago

Swimming is a life saving skill and IMO as important as learning to read or do basic math. Public schools and local government should look at learning to swim the same way and find the resources to teach all young people to swim. Teaching people to swim for free would also help with the national lifeguard shortages. It is kind of silly to require Ivy League graduates to swim a 50. Also, when my sister went to Emory in the 90s they also had a swim requirement.

1 year ago

Is there anything worthy and traditional that won’t be scrapped due to its “disparate impact”?

Reply to  Gus
1 year ago

Ah yes, we’re destroying that long-held tradition of needing to swim across a moat to get your college diploma.

Wokeism run amok!!!

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Nolan
1 year ago

Change is inevitable. Commenters who oppose this vehemently should pursue legislation through elected officials to enact a National Learn to Swim program at any school receiving federal funding. Swimming is an invaluable life skill for all Americans regardless of race, religion or educational standing.

1 year ago


1 year ago

In truth, this is not a college issue… all elementary schools, even kindergatens should have swimming lessons for everyone. There should be money set aside in the budget of all schools to offer learning such a vital skill. Worldwide, not just in the U.S.!

1 year ago

If commenters like this swim graduation requirement so much, why aren’t they arguing to put it in place in all colleges and universities? It’s an anachronism and as stated in article very few schools have it. Let’s have it as a graduation requirement at U Texas since they have the facilities and money to teach all undergrads to swim.

1 year ago

When do i ever have to swim in the real world!

Reply to  Lpman
1 year ago

when you’re in water

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Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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