Last updated: May 8, 2012 3:01 pm
Mandatory gym class for computer science students under fire at BCIT
Students circulating a petition to end the weekly physical education requirement
BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) — Computer Science Technology (CST) students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) are speaking out against a physical education component of their program, a requirement not asked of students in any other program at the institute. The unusual practice has some students complaining of discrimination.
Students enrolled in the CST program have to spend 45 minutes per week in the gym as part of their course, with little supervision or guidance, other than being expected to break enough of a sweat to convince the instructor to sign an attendance and participation sheet.
“It’s ridiculous,” said BCIT Student Association of School of Computing and Academic Studies chair Marwan Marwan. “We’re adults, we should be given the option of how best to look after our health and spend our time [at BCIT]. We’re being lined up like schoolchildren with a piece of paper for our instructor to sign, so that we can be let out of [gym] class.”
CST students can be held back from course graduation if their sheets are not signed off on by the end of the semester. For this reason, attendance is high, though it has been reported that many students simply find a quiet spot to stay out of sight and catch up on schoolwork until handing their sheets in for signing.
“This sometimes forces students to lie to their instructors [about exercising] because they know they simply have more important things to do,” said Marwan.
Some students have said that their biggest concern is a feeling of discrimination caused by the mandatory nature of the course, which has led to a petition to abolish it from the CST program. Alex Lee, who acts as the BCIT Student Association’s School of Computing councilor, believes that enforcing the class as a CST prerequisite is simply unfair.
“We feel that it’s really important to bring fairness and equality across the board for all BCIT students, but currently that’s not happening because we are forced to have mandatory gym,” Lee told The Link. “It’s something that’s not forced upon anyone else.”
Marwan and Lee agreed that the practice of isolating CST students for physical education is based on stereotypes. They said that if it was in the best interests of students, those studying finance, business, or even the natural sciences could be similarly characterized as leading the sedentary lifestyle associated with information technology professionals.
“The idea actually came from [the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology] a few years back, where it was very well received,” says associate dean of CST Brian Pidcock.
According to Lee and Marwan, 90 per cent of petitioned students have signed against the class.
“The course will come under review at our upcoming executive meeting ... and this would probably be considered a minor change,” Pidcock told The Link.
“CST students feel they should participate in physical activity on their own terms and in their own time, since that’s the respect and courtesy given to students in BCIT in all other faculties,” said Lee.