It is no secret to students of the Claremont Colleges that the 5Cs_x000D_
can be a stressful place. Students constantly complain about their_x000D_
workload, which causes some to pull all-nighters and others to pull_x000D_
their hair out in frustration. As institutions intending to prepare_x000D_
students to live healthy, happy, and productive lives, the 5Cs should_x000D_
try to alleviate the stresses inherent here and, perhaps more_x000D_
importantly, encourage students to learn how to combat stress_x000D_
themselves so they can carry those skills on to life after Claremont.
There are certainly places on campus for students to do just_x000D_
this. The Monsour Center offers psychological support to students,_x000D_
as do various mentor and resource groups. But simple exercise and_x000D_
meditation, perhaps the most effective means for dealing with stress_x000D_
and leading a healthy life both physically and mentally, are too often pushed to the side of the academic conversation at the 5Cs.
This is not to say that students ignore their general well-being_x000D_
here or that there are not opportunities available to learn about mental and physical health. In fact, a large percentage of_x000D_
the community participates in varsity or club sports, and myriad_x000D_
physical education classes ranging from yoga to racquetball are available. Rather, the problem is rooted in the lack of school requirements to participate in these activities. Neither Scripps College nor Pitzer College have any physical education requirement, and Pomona College requires just one semester, while Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College do require three PE credits for students who are not varsity athletes.
It is not that students are out of shape or that there is necessarily a health crisis on the campuses. We know better than to say that only_x000D_
one type of body or one form of physical or mental exercise is inherently_x000D_
more valuable than any other. We do live in a world, however, both at the 5Cs and outside of the bubble, which seems to conspire to stress us to_x000D_
our limits. Dining halls and fast-food chains provide cheap and easy access to unhealthy food, made all the more appealing by how little_x000D_
time many of us seem to have outside of our commitments. Anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders are not uncommon on these campuses, however happy our admissions offices say we are.
It is irresponsible to ignore these realities of the world we wake up to every day, and failing to_x000D_
prepare us to deal with them when we are on our own is even more irresponsible. The point is to not_x000D_
make everyone run 20 miles a week, but rather to force students to think_x000D_
about our health in a world in which health is too easy to ignore. We need_x000D_
to take time away from our hectic schedules to evaluate the way we are living and its impact on our mental and physical health.
If the 5Cs create an environment where neglecting one’s health is_x000D_
so easy, the colleges should make sure their students are able to_x000D_
combat any negative ramifications to their physical and mental health. This does not mean requiring everyone to take a_x000D_
traditional physical education class, however. Classes ranging from_x000D_
Hiking/Geocaching to Life Bliss Meditation are already available_x000D_
through our PE departments; intramural sports, dance teams and other organized fitness activities can provide similar benefits. Even dancing raucously at Table Manners_x000D_
or weekend parties can serve as an escape—both into physical_x000D_
activity and away from emotional stress.
Learning how to live a happy and healthy life in an increasingly hectic world should be a central tenet of our education. We cannot accept as necessary or conditional the stress and unhealthy lifestyles that many 5C students suffer from now and are likely to battle for the rest of_x000D_
their lives. By creating_x000D_
more stringent requirements for physical and mental wellness_x000D_
activities, the 5Cs can encourage their students to live healthier_x000D_
and happier lives, even in a world that makes that goal seem_x000D_
unreachable at times. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to overwhelming stresses, but_x000D_
requiring students to think about and actively engage with their own_x000D_
health is a good start.