Now one college is taking a controversial stand
against its student's obesity. Lincoln University has given its
plump students an ultimatum -- take a fitness course that meets three
hours per week or don't graduate.
The university has began
testing its students body mass indexes. Those with a BMI above
30 kg/m2 must enroll in the fitness course. The
requirement was rolled out a couple years ago, but is just now
gaining attention as the first class of students affected, those
entering in the fall of 2006, will soon be looking to graduate.
To make sure those with overly muscular physique (which can give
abnormally high BMI) don't get improperly singled out, the school
also screens by waist size.
Many of the larger members of the
student body are filled with rage, confusion, and/or frustration at
the new policy. Tiana Lawson, 21, an admittedly obese editor
for the school's student newspaper, The Lincolnian, wrote a terse
review of the policy, saying it is unfair to single out those
overweight and demand they exercise. She writes, "I didn't
come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable
range. came here to get an education which, as a three-time
honor student, is something I have been doing quite well, despite the
fact that I have a slightly high Body Mass Index."
concludes, "I'm never going to be comfortable with this class,
but I think I would more understanding if this was a requirement for
everyone. While I don't think it was the university's intention to
make us feel excluded, that is precisely what they have done.
So for now, I'm going to bite the bullet and take the class. Not
because Lincoln is requiring me to, (I actually passed the test) but
rather, because I would like to be healthier. This was a decision
that I made… and that's the way it ought to be."
DeBoy, chairman of the school's Department of Health and Physical
Education defends the policy. He points out that many colleges
have screening systems that single out those with lacking math or
communication skills and make them take additional coursework to
catch up. He says that weight policy operates on a similar
premise. In an
interview with CNN.com, he explained, "We, as
educators, must tell students when we believe, in our heart of
hearts, when certain factors, certain behaviors, attitudes, whatever,
are going to hinder that student from achieving and maximizing their
life goals. Obesity is going to rob you of your quality and
quantity of life. We believe that this is unconscionable."
mandated course, dubbed "Fitness for Life", consists of
activities including water aerobics, Tai Bo and aerobic dance.
Approximately 12 to 15 students still have to take the class this
year to graduate, according to Mr. DeBoy's estimates. About 620
students already either took the course or tested out.
students support the policy. Brittnai Panton, a 19-year-old
freshman from Decatur, Georgia tested out, but in the interview with
CNN.com, she voiced her support. She states, "Being
in this day and age where people are becoming overweight and need
more fitness, I think it's a great idea to earn extra credit, an easy
Some lawyers, though, warn that the policy
may land the school in legal hot water. States David Kairys,
professor of law at Temple University Law School in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, "The part that seems excessive is forcing them to
take this course, or to exercise three hours a week, which isn't a
bad idea for them, but should be their choice."
the policy "paternalistic" and "intrusive".
According to reports, the Lincoln policy may be the first of its kind
in the country.