Essentially putting a “No Fatties” sign on the Admissions office, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania has taken a rather radical step in addressing obesity. They’re requiring that every student with a body mass index of 30 or higher, which is in the obese range, take a fitness class three times a week. Those who fail to show up won’t graduate. It’s easy to say it’s for their own good, but does a university have the right to withhold a diploma for someone’s lifestyle choices? The administration says, “Obesity is going to rob you of your quality and quantity of life. We believe that this is unconscionable.” But what about students who’re heavy drinkers, bulimics, cocaine users, smokers, or fans of unprotected sex? Aren’t those people risking their quality of life? Maybe they shouldn’t graduate unless they take a class? The historically African-American college believes honesty is the best policy. The head of their Physical Education department says, “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.” According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese. But one student recently found out that she was required to take the class wondered why it wouldn’t be a requirement for everyone. She said, “I didn’t come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable range, I came here to get an education which, as a three-time honor student, is something I have been doing quite well.” Her anger has garnered outside attention.
It’s not hard to understand the administration’s concern over obesity, but imagine the embarrassment of being told that smart isn’t good enough. Isn’t that what high school was for? As college students and consenting adults, it should be a student’s choice whether they want to make changes. Whenever my mom tells me I don’t need dessert or that I need to work out five times a week, it always makes me defiant. And I remember those all-you-can-eat dining halls. Not to be simplistic, but wouldn’t offering healthier food in the cafeteria be a good place to start? [CNN]