Why the swim test?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

So, why do we have the swim test? The answer is that no one really knows. Athletic director Adam Herz told the Gazette, “We believe that the requirement was prompted by a push by the American Red Cross to certify people during the first world war. Many schools, including Swarthmore, continue to think that swimming is one of the most valuable recreational skills we can teach, as just about everybody at some time will be on or by the water and, in all probability, will be in it.”

Rumors persist that the swim test was instituted after a student’s death by drowning, and some say it was a condition attached to the money used to build Ware Pool. It is true that Herschel Ware drowned in 1912, and the swim test was instituted in 1915, but Tom Krattenmaker of the Office of News and Information reminds us that correlation does not imply causality. The Wares who donated the money for the pool were “very distant relatives” of Herschel Ware, and the donation came over 50 years later. There is no evidence that the swim test requirement was prompted by Ware’s death, or that of any other student. Aquatics I has been a staple of the course schedule ever since.

Sink or swim? Ask us first. Email dailygazette [at] swarthmore.edu with all your queries.

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