From Cardio Dance to Five Animal Kung Fu, non-credit classes on campus have provided students a healthy way to unwind from academic stressors for over a decade. Starting next semester, though, the classes will no longer be offered through WesWELL, the University’s Office of Health Education. Instead, Joyce Walter, Director of the University Health Center, and Tim Shiner, Director of Student Activities, are proposing options that would allow current student instructors to continue teaching classes next semester on their own. The change is being explored as a way to mitigate the effect of budget cuts to the WesWELL Office.
Following the departure of former Health Education Director Lisa Currie this past October, the WesWELL office was reduced to a part-time temporary office that focuses solely on leading the Peer Health Advocates and doing student outreach. Although Walter has taken on many of the administrative duties of the office, WesWELL can no longer support the managerial aspects of running the classes, such as scheduling and processing payments.
Before Currie left, she discussed alternatives with Shiner and some student instructors that would allow students to continue teaching classes, but would not require WesWELL’s administrative services. The University will consider hiring a full-time Director of Health Education in the spring, which would likely allow classes to resume through WesWELL.
“Hopefully, it’s a temporary Band-Aid,” Shiner said. “But I think it’s a good compromise in order to make sure that [the classes] are able to continue.”
According to Walter and Shiner, one option is that current student instructors interested in teaching classes again next semester form a student group through the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), which would sidestep the issues of added cost and liability that would arise if classes were taught on an individual basis.
“I think it’s important from a health education standpoint [to continue offering classes],” Walter said. “And also for the students who lead them; it helps them financially and maintains whatever certificate they’ve earned.”
WesWELL health service classes have been offered since the early 1990s and have ranged from Basic Yoga and Cardio Kickboxing to Meditation and Zumba, a fitness program that combines dance styles such as salsa, reggaeton, and hip-hop. Although some classes are taught by outside instructors, most are taught by students or recent alumni. Prices range from $118-$145 for a semester package of 12 weekly sessions.
Jessica Brownfeld ’10, who currently teaches two yoga classes through WesWELL, said she would like to teach classes again next semester if the option is available.
“I think it’s really important for people to have some place to relax and de-stress, especially in this kind of environment,” she said. “People love the WesWELL classes. At least yoga is definitely well-attended.”
Tasha Camhi ’12 who has taken yoga classes through WesWELL for two semesters, echoed Brownfeld’s views.
“I definitely think the University should do everything they can to keep offering classes,” she said. “They’re already kind of expensive, but if they offered lower-priced options I think that would be an even better incentive.”
Shiner explained that creating a student group would allow instructors to register space on campus without having to pay a rental fee. Student and alumni instructors who do not form groups would receive a 20 percent discount on the external client rental fee. Forming a student group would also allow student instructors to use the University liability waiver.
In the past, participants have been able to charge the class fees to their student accounts. This would not be possible if instructors taught individual classes; the Student Accounts Office cannot transfer money from one student’s account to another’s. However, the office would be able to transfer payments for the courses from participants’ accounts to a student group’s fund.
Shiner explained that aside from a one-time commitment of creating a student group and learning the managerial ropes, student instructors won’t see much of a change from the way classes have been run in the past.
“The biggest portion is getting the group up and running and that’s a one-time thing,” Shiner said. “As an alternative to not being able to teach the courses, it’s not much different.”
Student instructors would have the ability to set their own prices. While this would give each instructor more flexibility, it could present a problem if price became a deciding factor, Brownfeld said.
“I hate that intersection of yoga and money,” Brownfeld said. “Then it turns into which class is the best price. I would hope that all the instructors could come to some agreement so that they would all be the same price.”
Another of Brownfeld’s concerns is that student groups might not continue from year to year.
“Most of us [instructors] are seniors,” Brownfeld said. “I’d be concerned with how much longer [a student group] could go.”
According to Shiner, the issue is two-fold.
“Obviously this issue would be resolved if a full-time health educator is hired, but the same issue is true for all student groups,” Shiner said. “I encourage all student groups to try to recruit younger members to assure the continuity of the programs they value on campus.”