All you need is ‘Love’

‘Love’ class popular among Saint Mary’s University football players

“Students need it,” Dr. Mary Hale says of Saint Mary’s University’s Love course. (Photo: Jeff Wilson)

Saint Mary’s University offers a course called Love, a second-year religious studies class known to attract a diverse crowd — and almost half of the football team.

Mary Hale, who’s been teaching Love for a decade, says it amazes her “how you get these tiny little girls and these big strong men sitting in circles and talking about feminism and sexuality.”

When the course is offered again in January, Hale expects a third of the class will be football and basketball players.

Riley Brown, who has been playing football at Saint Mary’s for five years, says Love, Death, Stars and Galaxies and Dinosaurs are usually at the top of team members’ academic wish list.

While the allure of raptors and asteroids might seem obvious, why does Love draw so many football players?

“Well, who doesn’t want to talk about love?” says Hale. “It’s a sexy course, you know, it really is. I mean, it’s love, right?”

“It really surprised me,” says Ashley Spencer, a student who took Love last summer. “There were almost as many men as women.”

But it’s not just about love; it’s about grades.

“Love,” Brown says, “is the first course people go to when they need an easy elective.” Spencer agrees:  “You want an A …. You want to boost your GPA? Then take this class.”

“It gets a bit of a reputation for being a bird course,” saysHale. “This isn’t engineering … If you get an answer wrong, a bridge isn’t going to fall down.”

At the same time, she says it’s harder than people think. ”There’s some frightening of some students away, once you figure out you have to write and read.”

“When you come to university you’re really focused on what you’re going to do.… Why am I here? I’m going to be a business major or I’m going to be an anthropologist. You don’t really have a lot of time anymore to think and to just sit and figure out who you are.”

But Brown says football players love Love for another reason: Hale doesn’t stereotype athletes as “big dumb football players.” Although Brown has never actually taken a course with Hale, he says her reputation is no secret in the locker room.

Another instructor, Lindsay Macumber, will be teaching Love for the first time next semester. “I would have been much more comfortable with the Death course,” says Macumber, whose background is in the Holocaust.

She looks forward to teaching Love because love is always open for interpretation. “Because the course attracts people from all backgrounds, we need to make Love accessible to everybody.”

Hale says Love students have gone from being almost entirely white to a mix of students from diverse backgrounds. It gives students a chance to discuss and challenge cultural concepts of love, such as arranged marriage.

“It’s great to see how interested people are in each other’s cultures,” says Hale.