Required classes in Personal Wellness — known to the miserable students at the University of Northern Iowa as Personal Hellness — are a classic way to maintain the backwater label.

UNI students have a choice – they can sit in a 200-person auditorium and sleep through guest lecturers reading PowerPoints about STDs, or they can take Hellness online.

Student advice via Rate My Professors: Definitely take it online.

My favorite comment:

Can go through the power points just as you would in class, but without someone talking in the background.

Someone talking in the background. That would be the professor. If you take the course online you remove the static.


It’s weird to think of your high school health class as part of a university’s liberal arts core. What was Cardinal Newman thinking when he left it off his list of the forms of knowledge a human being must have?

A couple of years ago the student body president described his own personal hellness and called for the end of the requirement.

Apparently his and other voices are beginning to be heard, because Northern Iowa’s liberal arts steering committee has recommended that the required personal wellness class be dropped. This has

provoked displeasure from current Personal Wellness instructors as well as faculty and staff in the UNI Department of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services.

The personal wellness team has pulled out all the stops, jargon-wise, to defend the intellectual centrality of personal wellness:

“We feel very strongly about providing our students with health and wellness information, which we feel is imperative for lifelong good health… Including individual teaching days in some classes regarding health issues is a disservice to our students and would not provide adequate information for them to make appropriate healthy life decisions… College is the time for students to form lifestyle behavior patterns that strongly influence the rest of their life….

Just as the college years may usher in life-long risk behaviors in some students, these years also provide an opportunity for students to begin patterns that lead to life-long health improvement… A college health course addressing the current needs of college students, while also looking to their future health, can have an impact… Education has been shown to be the best strategy to empower college students to improve their health behaviors and decision-making skills.”

UD looks forward to more of this sort of writing as the personal wellness wars heat up.

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2 Responses to “What becomes a backwater most?”

  1. Mike S. Says:

    “Education has been shown to be the best strategy to empower college students to improve their health behaviors and decision-making skills.”

    The Personal Wellness crowd thinks highly of mandatory instruction to ingrain certain habits of thought and behavior.
    What would they say about the effectiveness of mandated instruction in ethics?

  2. ricki Says:

    Coming next: Mandatory “Personal Wellness” training for FACULTY.

    We have some kind of “wellness initiative” here, so far it’s just e-mails reminding us of the national Smoke-Out day or whatever it’s called (support for people who want to quit). But I worry that weigh-ins, dietary counseling, trying to mandate exercise, and other infantilizing processes are on the way. And it’ll be sold under the rubric of cutting health-insurance costs. Anyone who smokes, is overweight, or has some chronic condition, be prepared to be harassed.

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