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Weightlifting is essential to liberal edu­cation. By forcibly closing gyms these last six months, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer opposes excel­lence and mod­er­ation. Moreover, she vio­lates cit­izens’ right to peaceful assembly.

Whitmer should recant her edicts and re-open the gyms. If she will not, Hillsdale College should open them anyway. 

The ele­vation of the soul requires the strength­ening of the body. Socrates argues in Book III of “The Republic” that those who study only music and poetry, without gym­nastic, become “soft and tame.” For the good of the soul, exercise must be mixed with philo­sophical and musical edu­cation. As Socrates knew, honing the body ele­vates and mod­erates the spirited portion of man’s nature, making him coura­geous. Whitmer, by forcing the state’s gyms to close, denies Hillsdale stu­dents their right to pursue a full liberal edu­cation.

Exercise and martial arts are political, too. The ancient Greek orator and diplomat Aeschines, in his speech “Against Timarchos,” notes that the Athenian law­giver, Solon, pro­hibited slaves from exer­cising in the gym­nasia and joining the palaestra, or wrestling school. Aeschines says the law­giver, seeing the “noble results” that stem from working out, refused to grant such honors to the slaves. 

Whitmer banned gyms for the cit­izens of Michigan for the same reason. She knows, con­sciously or not, what the gym rep­re­sents — bodily excel­lence, strength, and spirit­edness. Such qual­ities make men resistant to tyranny. Whitmer has reason to fear the cul­ti­vation of such virtues. Her inter­minable and uncon­sti­tu­tional emer­gency powers rest on the will­ingness of the people to tol­erate her edicts without resis­tance.

Hillsdale stands in oppo­sition to such usurpa­tions of power. The college’s mission pro­claims ded­i­cation to self-gov­ernment, liberal edu­cation, and the American con­sti­tu­tional order. 

By opening its gym to stu­dents, without restric­tions, Hillsdale would stand for freedom. Pres­ident Larry Arnn has already shown tremendous courage in simply reopening campus for classes. In a time when fear char­ac­terizes vir­tually every insti­tution in American life, Hillsdale stands apart. 

Reopening the Roche Sports Complex would be a victory for nor­malcy and order. It could also mean, of course, mobi­lizing a panoply of state admin­is­trative agencies against the college. But that is unlikely. Karl Manke, a barber in Owosso, Michigan, who reopened ille­gally back in May, achieved a total victory against the state’s seizure of his business license. If the state gov­ernment couldn’t defeat a lone small-town barber, it is unlikely it could defeat Hillsdale College. 

Addi­tionally, Whitmer’s orders are already out of step with the rest of the country, as 43 states have already reopened gyms. Liberal edu­cation is worth fighting for. Freedom is worth fighting for. By reopening the sports center, Hillsdale College defends both.


Josiah Lip­pencott is pur­suing a master’s degree in the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship.