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Too fat to pass.
November 20, 2009 7:37 PM   Subscribe

25 students at Lincoln University may not graduate, because they failed -- to lose weight. The students are members of "the first graduating class required to either have a BMI below 30 or to take 'Fitness for Life,' a one semester class that mixes exercise, nutritional instruction and discussion of the risks of obesity" in order to graduate from Lincoln.

In a similar vein, you may remember last year's piece of stunt legislation that would have banned fat people from eating in Mississippi restaurants. The bill did not pass into law.

The Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity conducts research on weight bias, and has found that bias against fat people is prevalent in employment, health care settings, interpersonal relationships, media, and education. Other scholars have recently suggested that the stigma attached to body size may contribute to diseases thought to be caused by obesity.
posted by Ouisch (104 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, fatties: lose the weight or take a class shaming you about not losing the weight!

Way to go, Lincoln U! Hey, think those 30 seniors will be good prospects for contributing to the alumni fund in a year or two?
posted by emjaybee at 7:48 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because they failed -- to take the goddamn class they were supposed to take.

Hey, I had to take "study skills workshop," a class I showed no indication of needing, inconveniently offered in the evenings, and teaching such advanced ideas as "make an outline." [with homework.] Made me want to poke my own eyes out. But I did it. Because it was required.
posted by ctmf at 7:52 PM on November 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


And they thought they were too big to fail...
posted by grounded at 7:53 PM on November 20, 2009 [28 favorites]


Yes, ctmf, a class about being fat is totally the same as a class about how to study. Semester long classes for smokers, drinkers, potheads, people who practice unsafe sex, jaywalkers, and people who have anger issues next?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:55 PM on November 20, 2009 [15 favorites]


Anorexia class too?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:57 PM on November 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's not about what the class is about, it's about them knowing what they had to do and not doing it. The time to get upset about it was before, when they learned of the requirement.

I'm not saying it's a good idea or not a good idea. It's what they agreed to at some point.
posted by ctmf at 7:59 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anorexia class = living in a freshman girl's dorm, furiousxgeorge. Jesus, there's a reason I moved in with all guys as soon as humanly possible in college.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:59 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, back in the good old days we could just humiliate undesirables based on good old fashioned crowdsourced neighborly common sense. These new-fangled city slickers wanna make bullying into some kind of official institution. Big government has no place in mocking fatties, we can do it just fine on our own.
posted by idiopath at 8:01 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


> The Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity conducts research on weight bias,

If Yale needs to trim any fat in the present economic climate, I know one place they could look at.
posted by jfuller at 8:02 PM on November 20, 2009


It's pretty intrusive for a university to require classes based on a student's medical information. It would be totally on the level if they required EVERYONE to take a class about the dangers of obesity. But using a student's medical info "against" them is taking several good-intentioned steps down the road to hell.

It would be similarly reprehensible for a college registrar to obtain a student's STD test results and use them to decide whether or not they are required to take a class about safe sex. Sure, obesity is less likely to be a secreat than chlamydia, but it's still a student's private medical business and shouldn't be used to discriminate, whether it's for their own good or not.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:03 PM on November 20, 2009 [26 favorites]


It's not about what the class is about, it's about them knowing what they had to do and not doing it.

It was your example, if you can't see the difference between a class required for academic purposes and a class required because someone is an idiotic busybody you have lost perspective.


Anorexia class = living in a freshman girl's dorm, furiousxgeorge.


Anorexia class, in this case, would be a class you have to go to for a semester if you are under a certain weight and your university thinks you needs to gain weight.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:05 PM on November 20, 2009


secret, even
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:05 PM on November 20, 2009


if you can't see the difference between a class required for academic purposes and a class required because someone is an idiotic busybody

I think a class on nutrition and fitness is a great idea. Like Salvor Hardin said, though, it should be for everybody. Picking on these students is the problematic part.

My only beef is the slant of the article trying to be all oh, they're getting kicked out of school because they're FAT! The school did not require them to lose weight, only to take the class, and even that could be skipped if they did lose weight. I'm not going to say that was a great idea, but those students did know what they had to do. If they couldn't be bothered to take a one-semester required course over four years (I assume), I can't really get that outraged on their behalf.

Especially since they aren't being told this after it's too late, they're being reminded while there is still time to complete the requirement.
posted by ctmf at 8:14 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like zOMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111oneoneoneeleven! How dare the school educate people, or target educational programs to those who most need it?! You'd almost think schools were designed with the goal of teaching or something.
posted by jock@law at 8:19 PM on November 20, 2009


i wonder what a disability rights lawyer will make of this
posted by pyramid termite at 8:25 PM on November 20, 2009


pyramid termite: "i wonder what a disability rights lawyer will make of this"

The fact that they are crafting academic requirements based on a physical metric seems like it could be on really shaky ground. But would "obesity" have to be recognized as a disability first? Or would the possibility of a hormonal or psychiatric issue that causes obesity be enough?
posted by idiopath at 8:30 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Next up: requiring freshman students with Tourette's Syndrome who can't get their symptoms under control by graduation (and only those students) to complete a semester-long etiquette course.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:30 PM on November 20, 2009 [17 favorites]



My only beef is the slant of the article trying to be all oh, they're getting kicked out of school because they're FAT! The school did not require them to lose weight, only to take the class, and even that could be skipped if they did lose weight.


I'm gonna try this again. The school has no legitimate interest in blackmailing students into losing weight or forcing them to sacrifice class time that could be used for real classes. Health issues are for doctors.


The fact that your school wanted to make sure you knew how to study HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:34 PM on November 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm not going to begin to parse the ethics or legality of it, but it does seem to me that the easy catch-all solution to this, if the true goal were to promote better health in the graduating class, would be to make the course mandatory for all students. If there are any students who will be allowed to graduate, having omitted this course due to having a BMI lower than 30, but who are cigarette smokers, then the exercise is self-evidently a fucking joke.
posted by nanojath at 8:38 PM on November 20, 2009 [14 favorites]


The school has no legitimate interest

I don't know. Plenty of universities require students to learn to swim before graduating. (MIT, for one.) If it's not bizarre for high schools to require "gym" or some athletic requirement, I don't see why it's bizarre for a university to have some equivalent. A private university, no less.

And to the extent you have a beef about "sacrific[ing] class time that could be used for real classes"...I don't necessarily disagree, but (1) I'm not crazy about trying to decide for universities which classes are "real" or not; and (2) ctmf is right: Most colleges have some poke-your-eyes-out requirement, and the world keeps spinning. Fix this story's dishonest slant and it doesn't bother me much.
posted by cribcage at 8:47 PM on November 20, 2009


research on weight bias, and has found that bias against fat people is prevalent in employment, health care settings, interpersonal relationships, media, and education.

What? No way! That's unfair! You shouldn't be able to pick who you want to date or be friends with!
posted by P.o.B. at 8:51 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know. Plenty of universities require students to learn to swim before graduating. (MIT, for one.) If it's not bizarre for high schools to require "gym" or some athletic requirement, I don't see why it's bizarre for a university to have some equivalent. A private university, no less.

I see your point here, but I would prefer that such a requirement be applied to students across the board, and not single people out based on their weight.
posted by Ouisch at 8:52 PM on November 20, 2009


Basically this school has institutionalized giving kids a hard time for being fat. That's in a different league than teaching everyone how to swim or write insipid essays.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:53 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Plenty of universities require students to learn to swim before graduating. (MIT, for one.) If it's not bizarre for high schools to require "gym" or some athletic requirement, I don't see why it's bizarre for a university to have some equivalent.

There's a difference between "Everybody must have this skill", "Everybody must learn to exercise", and "Fat people must do more work to get an academic degree because they're fat." The first two are universals. The third is "Fuck you, fatty."
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:56 PM on November 20, 2009 [26 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: what it has to do with is being a requirement I had no interest in, did not agree with, and did not believe that it was the school's business how I got my work done. But I knew when I signed up that it was a requirement. So I did it, like it or not. No analogy is perfect, no, so if you don't get it, forget it.

You want to talk about blackmail? How about signing up for a program fully knowing what the requirements are and having plenty of time to complete them, but blowing them off until the last minute. Then pitching a fit about it on the Internet to try to strong-arm the university into giving you the degree you did not fulfill.

The incoming freshmen may want to campaign to get the requirement changed. Maybe it should be changed. I find the story as written, though, not compelling my sympathy, that's all.
posted by ctmf at 8:58 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The school has no legitimate interest in blackmailing students into losing weight or forcing them to sacrifice class time that could be used for real classes. Health issues are for doctors.

While I find discriminating between students based on body mass index to be dehumanizing, I think nutrition is definitely a "real class".

Are you really happy with the job that the average American parent is doing teaching his kids about nutrition? Have you seen what most people are eating?

I have two problems with their nutrition class:
- It should start when the kids are much younger (say 6) and are still forming their habits.
- Everyone should get a chance to take it.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:58 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Take that, fatty!

I'm just improving discourse on the internet, ignore me.

No, really, that is a little much. Fine, encourage them to get fit and give them incentives to do so. But the time when this was appropriate, if it ever was, was in high school. Now they're adults, their grades have utterly nothing to do with their pant size, and this is just weight discrimination, pure and simple. Scrap the program and start over.
posted by saysthis at 8:59 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


You could maybe make an argument that this isn't a totally stupid policy, given the documented evidence that obesity reduces earnings. For instance, John Cawley at Cornell is an economist who has studied obesity's effect on labor market outcomes. His 2004 Journal of Human Resources article, "The Impact of Obesity on Wages" finds:

abstract: Previous studies of the relationship between body weight and wages have found mixed results. This paper uses a larger data set and several regression strategies in an attempt to generate more consistent estimates of the effect of weight on wages. Differences across gender, race, and ethnicity are explored.

This paper finds that weight lowers wages for white females; OLS estimates indicate that a difference in weight of two standard deviations (roughly 65 pounds) is associated with a difference in wages of 9 percent. In absolute value, this is equivalent to the wage effect of roughly one and a half years of education or three years of work experience. Negative correlations between weight and wages observed for other gender-ethnic groups appear to be due to unobserved heterogeneity.
posted by scunning at 9:04 PM on November 20, 2009


The BMI is essentially a height/weight scale. Oh, supporters will tell you that it isn't, but they're full of it.

It takes virtually no account of one's fitness, and particularly muscular people it completely misreads. I'm wondering if tagging the requirement to the BMI hasn't left the University open to challenge on the basis that it's a crap standard.

There was an episode of PBS' Frontline titled "Fat" on America's relationship with fat, in our food on our bodies. It's not available for viewing, but here's a quote from the transcript:
NARRATOR: The [height/weight] charts that doctors use allow for differences between the sexes, but make no other distinctions, whether on the basis of age, heredity or body shape- no suggestion, in fact, that the point where weight becomes unhealthy might vary from one person to the next.

Today more and more people are beginning to see medical [height/weight] charts as unscientific, impersonal, even dangerous. David Alexander is in peak condition. He is 5 foot 8 and weighs 250 pounds, 100 pounds more than the recommended "ideal" for someone his height, and yet he is training for one of the most grueling competitive sports, the triathlon.

In a typical week, Dave will swim 5 miles, run 30 and cycle 200. He has completed 264 triathlons, everywhere from tropical Jamaica to northern China. Yet in spite of this record, David's weight supposedly puts him in a life-threatening category known to doctors as "morbid obesity." Their recommended ideal for someone Dave's height is a weight range between 130 and 165 pounds.

DAVE ALEXANDER: That would be impossible for my body type, the size of my bone structure. My total lean body mass weighs more than that.

INTERVIEWER: Where have the medical doctors perhaps got it wrong?

DAVE ALEXANDER: Everyone's different, and I think the range is much broader than they will admit. I've had problems with insurance companies wanting to rate me in high risk, and yet I can get up and run a marathon right now, and I'm sure the man giving me the physical can't do that.

Dr. CRAIG PHELPS, Dir. Phoenix Sports Center: Dave is overweight, but he's fit. It seems that there's a population out there demanding to be heard. "I'm overweight, but I'm exercising, and I'm fit."

NARRATOR: Craig Phelps has been Dave Alexander's doctor for 12 years.

Dr. CRAIG PHELPS: Dave's resting pulse is in the 60s, like a trained athlete. His blood pressure is usually in the 120s over 80s, which, once again, for most people is a very normal blood pressure. We've exercised him to the point of exhaustion on the treadmill many times to check and make sure there's no risk of any obvious cardiovascular disease, and that has turned out normal. So we have to kind of say that Dave is fit.
If there's a Dave Alexander in that group of 25, I wonder what his lawyer will have to say.

I can't wait to see how many undernourished, anorexic, flaccid-muscled students the University is willing to graduate while the fatties aren't allowed out in public. How much fucking concern does the University show the scrawnies?

How about the weaklings who can't lift a carry-on case over their heads on an airplane? How come they don't get sent to "The perils of being weak and having no muscle tone" class?

And given that current research is showing that being overweight can have protective health effects over being underweight and scrawny, this smells like even more fat-hating bullshit.

The more I ponder this, the more I want to see the University sued into submission for invading students' private medical records and using bullshit science to hate on fatties.

And yeah, I used to be fat and weak. Ain't so much any more. Doesn't mean that hating on fat people for being fat is ok. Sue the U!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:12 PM on November 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


From the article:

“This country’s in the midst of an obesity epidemic and African-Americans are hit hard by obesity and diabetes,”

So are the fat white kids exempt?
posted by bh at 9:13 PM on November 20, 2009


Is there some sort of required asshat class for people who are, well, asshats? I'd be totally down with that, even if I was required to take it too.
posted by cccorlew at 9:15 PM on November 20, 2009


scunning: um. no. justifying it with market effects misses the point. a school's job is not to produce people for whom we can more accurately predict a certain salary. a school's job is to produce people about whom we can come to the conclusion, based on the school's certification, that they know X, Y, and Z.

the school in this case has decided that Z should represent a minimum baseline of knowledge about nutrition and exercise; and they have decided that they will test that knowledge not by an abstract test but in actual practice.

people here have their panties in a bunch because weight is a subject about which people get their panties in a bunch. its not fair, i have a glandular disorder, im just bigboned, all of these things are (in the vast majority of cases - exceptions exist) just excuses for lacking dedication and time management -- two other skills that are or ought to be required to graduate.
posted by jock@law at 9:17 PM on November 20, 2009


Semester long classes for smokers, drinkers, potheads, people who practice unsafe sex,

In my day, we called them "The Humanities"
posted by thivaia at 9:26 PM on November 20, 2009 [38 favorites]


So are the fat white kids exempt?

Given that Lincoln University is a "traditionally black college," according to their own site, they're probably not worried about the fat white kids. I'm thinking that skin color has less to do with their decision making than money - Lincoln University has been pushing, for a long time, to demonstrate that their student body represents what is best in America.

But, this kind of stupidity isn't helping. Increasingly, the idea of BMI as a hard rule instead of a guideline has come under fire, especially as a measure of fitness. Tying BMI requirements to graduation rights is just plain dumb. Having Lincoln University actually provide incentives for eating disorders baffles me.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:27 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was vexing enough to me when my coworkers, all of whom I pretty much unreservedly adore, spent six months constantly discussing their gym habits and how much they weren't eating because one of our projects sponsored a voluntary "health challenge." There's really only so much "and then I hit spin class and I'm thinking about the cleanse" you can take in a workday, even if you're, like me, mostly okay with food and body image.

I imagine trying to do academic work at a campus where everyone is fixated on weight as a graduation requirement is about eight million times more annoying and stressful an experience, and certainly pretty awful for anyone dealing with food or body-image issues to start with.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:27 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yea, I was overweight when I was on the varsity rowing team at University. I could outrun all of my non-rowing friends who had better BMI scores than I did but were really just skinny couch potatoes.
posted by Pseudology at 9:28 PM on November 20, 2009


How about a semester of "How to be Nice" for people who are judged to be assholes?

It seems to me that there is a common thread in the thoughts of some who wish to impose what they feel is an acceptable BMI on those of us who are obese. "Educate them!", they say. "If the fat people only understood that eating healthy foods and exercise would help them, they'll lose weight!"

I've got news for you, folks. Just because I'm obese does not mean that I'm an idiot. Everybody knows that eating healthy foods and exercise are important for health. Whether one is obese because of economic circumstances, stress, metabolism, mental health, hormone issues, lack of time or inertia (all of these apply in my case) or any other reason, I do know that these things are important. I also know that when I'm in a hurry, I can't get tofu at a drive-thru and that my community doesn't have any safe places to ride a bicycle.

I'm happy for those of you who are healthy and thin, especially those of you who are fighting what seems to be your body's natural tendencies toward obesity. I'm just saying for me and I think many others, condescension and humiliation are not a good motivators for initiating life-altering change.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:28 PM on November 20, 2009 [19 favorites]


So, jock@law, because I'm fat I don't know about nutrition, weight loss, exercise, etc? What/ever/. Believe me, I'm a fat, educated (law-school educated, even) woman who probably knows more about all of the above than you'll ever know. And all of it without being forced by a university to take (and pay for) a class on "fitness", at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

Unless the class is a requirement of every single student at the university, regardless of their BMI (which is bogus in almost all cases), or a requirement to graduate with a particular degree, it's ridiculous and at least borderline discriminatory.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:29 PM on November 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty fat. No issues with it here. I've spent the vast majority of my life being a fat chick who was honestly more interested in reading and writing and sitting down inside than I have been in running around outside getting my flabby ass all tired and shit. I do understand this. So, a few years ago I started worrying about my health and I took up some physical activities to go along with my reading and writing. Fencing, Belly Dancing, Swimming, and I'd usually do at least two out of the three every week, sometimes all three of them. It wasn't a huge amount of work, but like I've said, I'm pretty lazy.

So I lost a bit of weight, got a bit healthier, but on the whole I'm still really pretty fat, health conscious improvements in diet and exercise along with it, and all I'm saying is that if my university told me that while my colleagues were doing classes that they were excited about and signed up for of their own accord, I had to sit in a lecture theater and learn about nutrition? I would have given that administration as much shit as I possibly could, or I would have applied for a transfer. I don't know if that's as easy an option in American universities, but hell, when those students first handed in their applications I doubt this side of the curriculum was played up to them, I know I would have wanted the education I chose to pay for, not the one that someone else thought I needed because of my weight.

Still, they should have caused shit earlier in the year. The not attending class protest might suit us lazy folk up to a point, but it doesn't bode well come graduation time.
posted by emperor.seamus at 9:39 PM on November 20, 2009


"The school did not require them to lose weight, only to take the class, and even that could be skipped if they did lose weight. I'm not going to say that was a great idea, but those students did know what they had to do."

Clearly, they did not know what they had to do. It's ridiculous to hold someone accountable for a lifestyle change based on a single college course. Tell you what, I'll give you $1 for every pound over 700lbs you can bench six months from now.
'But wait Smed, that would require a serious training regimen to be worth anything at all.' Aw, c'mon, it's just a few hundred over half the worlds record. There are guys who hit 1000 after eight months. It's doable.
But it takes a lifestyle change. And you'd get, at best, what $375? Not a big payoff for six months hard work and the time and dedication it would take. Not to mention the potential for injuries.

People don't get fat because they're ignorant. Nor are they unhealthy because they want to be.
Fitness is a practice, not an information set. You can't tell someone how to do it. It has to be modeled and consistent attention has to be put towards it to work the same as if a normally fit person wants to become a powerlifter or a bodybuilder.
It's a lifestyle change.
And you're not going to go to one powerlifting class and learn to be a powerlifter for the rest of your life and it would be idiotic to hold anyone to that kind of standard with little or no incentive
(as per my above example) and especially with disincentives.
Have a trainer stand there and shout slogans at you in the gym instead of showing you proper technique and building your confidence and your physical sense of self as well as your knowlege. Ain't gonna work.

And I don't care that other students took the class and 'passed.' Show me those students 10 years from now.

If the college wanted to address this they would make a long term commitment that integrates fitness into students schedule so they form proper habits that not only alloy what they learn but eventually start to feel right.
Poor choices would fall away as easy as choosing not to gulp big slugs of egg nog after a long run because you know it's going to make you feel really nasty if not make you puke.

Doesn't irritate me that this is about fat people. It irritates me that it's another example of people thinking because they're not fat they think they're fit and think they can magically train someone else by imparting information didactically.

Or what, I was born hating McDonalds food? You can't just tell someone it's bad for them. It has to taste that way, and feel that way. You want to re-set these people's calibration on what they consider well-being.
A lot of people feel good after downing 20 oreos. I'd feel like I was on fire.
Here's an idea - let's give heroin addicts classes. And smokers. Don't they know it's bad for them? All they have to do is quit.
No offense ctmf, I get what you're saying. The manufactured outrage sort of thing. And though my view differs, ultimately, it's just a comment on a board (as is mine, yeah).

My ire is really for the goofballs who put this half assed plan into action and started thinking they had the right to jump into people's lives because, what, oh, they took *a* class.
Yeah, one class isn't going to make a fat person healthy any more than one class is going to turn an healthy person into an elite athlete. Knowing is not the same as doing.
And it *is* practice. That's why nursing and policing programs and other practice professions are taught differently than law or business or other desk type jobs and why they have a different structure and more time is taken in developing those skills and that is extended into the profession itself.

What practical long term support systems do they have in place to reinforce behavior other than failing them from one class?
posted by Smedleyman at 9:41 PM on November 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


I look forward to the university that requires all HIV+ undergrads to take safe-sex instruction classes. Maybe mandatory attendance at a local "abstinence support group" as well.

We're just trying to help people be healthy, after all.
posted by Avenger at 9:44 PM on November 20, 2009


Also, I don't understand why this is deemed appropriate, but my suggestion that Lincoln students have to sumo wrestle for their degree's keeps getting rejected. Obvious anti-fat bias.
posted by emperor.seamus at 9:49 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


FormlessOne Given that Lincoln University is a "traditionally black college," according to their own site, they're probably not worried about the fat white kids.

Sorry, FormlessOne, I have to give you a "Fail" on that one. That's Lincoln University from Jefferson City, Missouri. The article is about Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania.


A. Is Lincoln a free university?

B. Is this course in addition to the X number of credits required to complete a degree?


If A is no and B is no, then students with a BMI > 30 are being cheated out of more relevant coursework for their fields.

If A is no and B is yes, than this is at minimum $586 fat tax, not considering what happens if students fail it twice1 and get booted.

University, as mentionned earlier in the thread, is way too late for this kind of remedial triage. Seriously, medical doctors have a b**** of a time trying to get their own long-time patients to change their lifestyle habits.

1 - IIRC from my undergrad, you got 2 cracks at a required course.
posted by Decimask at 9:59 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry FormlessOne, that comes across as more dickish than the chummy ribbing I was hoping for. My bad.
posted by Decimask at 10:02 PM on November 20, 2009


Lincoln University in Oxford is also a historically black college.
posted by Danila at 10:07 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm happy for those of you who are healthy and thin, especially those of you who are fighting what seems to be your body's natural tendencies toward obesity. I'm just saying for me and I think many others, condescension and humiliation are not a good motivators for initiating life-altering change.

You're absolutely right that focusing this class on people with a high BMI is humiliating.

However, a nutrition class can do a lot more for people that tell them what "everybody knows". Having someone in front of a class talking passionately about good food is completely different than reading a condescending article in the times. I have observed in others that the experience of having parents who never touch fast food, causes a poison-like aversion to it.

I also don't think that "everybody knows" how to cook a healthy meal quickly, or how to buy cheap healthy foods, or how to use leftovers to make something delicious.

It's wrong to judge a nutrition class as an indictment of the obese. Is a literacy class an indictment of the illiterate? Do we stop remedial classes because it makes kids feel they're being judged to be stupid?

Being "nice" to people does not mean protecting them from the thought that they are being judged. Being "nice" to people means teaching them how to live better lives. And, holding everything else the same, healthier lives are better lives.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am 6'3", 320 lbs. Yes, I know I'm fat.

I get more exercise than most thin folks, bicycling 2.5 miles daily up steep slopes to and from the train station as part of my commute. Yes, I also eat more than most thin folks, but this is because I am hungry, and thin people eat when they are hungry, too. I'm hungry because of a number of biological and psychological factors (which, surprisingly, are close to being the same thing.)

If I had to take a class where it was explained to me that I was fat and worthless and would die if I didn't adhere to some spectacularly ineffective diet and exercise advice in order to get the degree I paid and worked my ass off for, I would be in the mood to fucking kill someone.

So, I would skip the class, too, and transfer as many creds as I could to some other school that isn't stuck in the "fat is a moral failing" stone-age.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:20 PM on November 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


(2.5 miles each way.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:23 PM on November 20, 2009


Basically this school has institutionalized giving kids a hard time for being fat.
Now they're adults, their grades have utterly nothing to do with their pant size


If anybody wants to derail the usual "fat" argument, there's apparently a disagreement among the policy's critics about whether it's bad because (1) college students are adults who can take care of themselves, or (2) college students are kids who need to be protected from oppressive grown-ups.
posted by cribcage at 10:23 PM on November 20, 2009


Decimask and Smed: I don't think they had to lose weight to pass the class. I think it was just an academic class about nutrition and fitness. The U just wanted to graduate people who know, at least in theory, what a healthy lifestyle is. Granted, there are certainly a lot of fast-food-eating, video-game-playing, skinny weak smokers with low BMI that need the class more than some of the bigger folks. BMI was a stupid way of excusing the rest of the students. Presumably they figured low BMI meant they already knew the material, which is ridiculous.
posted by ctmf at 10:24 PM on November 20, 2009


If I had to take a class where it was explained to me that I was fat and worthless and would die if I didn't adhere to some spectacularly ineffective diet and exercise advice in order to get the degree I paid and worked my ass off for, I would be in the mood to fucking kill someone.

What if you could teach the class? Do you think a nutrition class could be taught in such a way as to be useful?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:29 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you think a nutrition class could be taught in such a way as to be useful?

Sure, but why assume that only the fat students need to attend it?
posted by Ouisch at 10:36 PM on November 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Do you think a nutrition class could be taught in such a way as to be useful?

Sure, but why assume that only the fat students need to attend it?


The first thing I said was that I consider that humiliating and everyone should have the opportunity to take it.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:37 PM on November 20, 2009


Then I suppose we agree. But that's not what the school is doing, in this case.
posted by Ouisch at 10:38 PM on November 20, 2009


Do you think a nutrition class could be taught in such a way as to be useful?

No. Fat people are aware of nutrition, they are not fat out of ignorance. They are fat because they eat when they are stressed out, or they eat when they are sad, or when they have acid reflux and need something to settle their stomach, or the instinct that tells the animal it doesn't need to eat any more is somehow absent, or...

There are a gajillion reasons people are fat. Insisting one cure fits all, or most, or even a sizable minority is hubris and stupidity.

If anything, I would teach mental health, and make all students attend. Depression may well be as common as asthma or allergies. It's high time it was treated like asthma or allergies, by patients and pros alike... a student who schedules an appointment with a counselor instead of an appointment with a pint of Ben and Jerry's would be ahead of the game. Singling out fat folks for this is insulting to fat people, and a dis-service to non-fat people who have motivational or emotional issues they're undoubtedly handling in an equally atrocious fashion.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:40 PM on November 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wow, this is some epic administrative cherry picking.

BMI? Gimme a fucking break. As noted above, BMI is notoriously poor at noting anything other than a height/weight ratio. It says nothing of muscle mass.

You know who's overweight according to BMI? This guy.

It could be argued that it's unconstitutional to discriminate on such a basis - the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause could be interpreted to include weight discrimination. There are myriad reasons why someone would choose to be overweight, obese etc. which have nothing to do with their need to learn about health.

It's not the forcing of the class that's the problem - it's the differential treatment. This has no place in a university setting, given that there are hundreds of other classes which could be forced on people for similar reasons. Are we going to send the gays to classes explaining that the very fate of mankind depends on us procreating? Either everybody takes the class or nobody does.

I'm sure this guy is well-meaning and all, but if I were the parent of one of these kids, I'd arrange a meeting with him and the nearest, scariest-looking lawyer who's the least bit familiar with constitutional law. I'd have him reinstating my kid, apologising to my kid, and begging for me to drop the suit.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:48 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heh, this reminds me of looking into a certain engineering course the other week. Apparently, "phys ed" was a required part of the curriculum... I was like, "What the hell?"

That being said, I agree with the poster (can't scroll all the way back up, sorry) who said that it was a requirement. If they had qualms with it, they could brought it up before the no-graduation thing came into play.
posted by biochemist at 11:01 PM on November 20, 2009


Of course it might have been implemented after they already enrolled. Or maybe it wasn't in big flashing letters in the information they got when enrolling at the college. I'd feel pretty insulted if I was singled out for taking a class that most people didn't have to take for some physical attribute or another. And I'd be in a tough position if I'd already started school at some place--transferring may not be worth it. Doesn't make it less demeaning.

Also, making overweight people take an extra class is pretty much saying "Hey, you're fat. Why don't you sit on your ass an extra few hours a week for a semester?"
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:09 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does the school know the BMI's of the students? Most schools require that you submit health records before attending, but I was under the impression that these were confidential between you and the health center. Is this wrong? It just seems incredibly against any sort of doctor/patient privilege that the school would look up everybody's weight.

The school did not require them to lose weight, only to take the class, and even that could be skipped if they did lose weight.

So if you lost enough weight during your 4 years at the school, you didn't have to take the class? So, would the administration prefer the students developing all sorts of eating disorders or heroin addictions to lose weight because they are trying to get into med/law/grad school, have a full course load, and can't fit this course into their schedule? Because, by the school's logic, if they're fat, they obviously don't know how to get fit in a healthy manner, so the students would obviously be turning to unhealthy ways, right?!? (sarcastically, not).

I agree that if everyone was required to take a class on nutrition, that would be great. I wish I had taken one in college. I'm fairly healthy, but I think learning a bit about the science behind nutrition and fitness would go a long way to dispelling all those weird diet/exercise myths that are out there now.
posted by bluefly at 11:18 PM on November 20, 2009


The college I attended had a grandfather clause for folks who were continuously enrolled for a specific period of time prior to any change that would affect their graduation requirements-- you got the option of taking the new reqs, or sticking to the original ones. If Lincoln has a similar policy, I would expect it would apply to any student who'd enrolled before this BMI requirement went into effect.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:19 PM on November 20, 2009


I'm on the fence about this issue and I feel as if both sides have some very valid points, but at the end of the day, this is their money. I would be livid if I was told that (in my case) the stress that helped put the weight on was going to only grieve me financially and emotionally.. *again*.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:32 PM on November 20, 2009


Is this on the application?

Fatty? Y / N
posted by Talanvor at 12:26 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually, now that I think of it, does the college offer this class gratis? Or does that burden fall upon the student as well? So not only do the fat kids have to take an extra class, thus needing to balance more course load than the other students, but also have an additional financial burden as well.

Hey, maybe that's part of the plan. Then they'll have less money for food, and time to eat it. Win win!
posted by Talanvor at 12:33 AM on November 21, 2009


Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
posted by Phanx at 12:48 AM on November 21, 2009


Do we only give sex education to people who sleep around? If a nutrition and health class is useful it's useful to everyone. When we're taught nutrition we're taught that both under and over nutrition are bad things; and that people can go from 'normal' into either of those categories without really noticing it.

I'm fat. I'm in a minority among my peers because medical students are more likely to be gym bunnies. But the thing is that if you take into account all the health risk behaviours for things like cancer I probably have fewer than my peers (for example, I don't binge drink 3-4 nights out of seven). The difference with the fat is that people can see it - and because they can see it, it automatically becomes more of a problem than things they can't see.

This really gets to me. I don't deny that being fat is bad for me (and yes, I am trying to not be fat). But the visibility allows discrimination on the grounds of being 'concerned about my health', when the normal BMI person next to me is probably unhealthier, just that you can't actually see their liver from the outside.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:30 AM on November 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


"The U just wanted to graduate people who know, at least in theory, what a healthy lifestyle is."

Makes it even worse. Being fit and healthy isn't a data set to know but a reality to be experienced.

I could dump a trainload of info right here on how to eat right, start to get in shape, lose weight, and maybe it might help someone. But it would be irresponsible of me to expect someone to internalize that information and apply it to their lives from that alone.

There's a lot of body consciousness in the U.S. I get it all the time. People ask me - still - 'dude, how much do you bench?' Like we're in junior high school. I could say anything, 250, 680, whatever, they'd just give me the chin jut like 'f'ing A, we're both pretty strong.'
You get it in the gym on occasion. There's a sort of sublimated pecking order a lot of places and I really don't want to be any part of it. There are enough guys serious about working out in the gym I'm at to make it comfortable. Still get a high signal to noise ratio (to borrow a phrase) sometimes.
Had a guy about mys size a while back following me around out of the corner of his eye. Whatever I did, he'd do more. So I'd do flyes, he'd get 10 lbs heavier and do flyes. I go do legs, he'd do legs. My workout is custom fit, varies, so yeah he was following me.
So finally I start on the incline bench and he cuts out to get some water or something and I put 500 lbs on and waited until I saw his shoe and shadow peek out from the doorway, strained to make myself red and rattled the bar a bit like I just racked it. Got up like 'wow, good lift,' guy just kind of 1/2 sneered went over to lift it and just got stapled.

This too - the U wrote a check their facility couldn't cash. You have to build a foundation for success. Set goals and progress towards them. It's not going to happen in a day. A week, a year. It's a lifetime of dedication and the payoff isn't in looking like Joe Muscles, it's having more energy, being happier more often, wanting to have more sex, having it better, being prone to having more and more often a sense of well being.

Just looking at the cursory information I can tell they didn't present that to their students. This "don't be fat, stupid" method is used very often. Setting goals and working incrementally to achieve them because you'll make yourself happier is much better.
I mean why do people masturbate? Feels good. Folks have sex for the same reasons (relationship complexity aside, I'm talking physical organism). Think if you showed people simple methods to develop habits to make them cum harder they'd follow up on it?
Howabout shaming them into not touching themselves? That ever worked? Even when it has - has it ever not been ultimately damaging?

You can't do something like this for someone any more than you can jerk someone off in order to jump start their sex life. You have to give them the tools to initiate their own success and reinforce positive habits.

Buddy of mine was HUGE. I mean a really big fat guy all through high school. Smart guy. Driven. Hated women because, y'know, he was fat and couldn't get any. But he could burn through metal with his stare. I mean the guy had (still has) a brain like a steel trap and he'd be a better Green Lantern than Hal Jordan given his willpower. He just liked to eat. A lot. And watch movies and t.v. and listen to music and read - all sorts of sedentary activity. Pleasurable, but sedentary.
Of course, he's wealthy now. Since, that kind of mindset is conducive to making money. But he's thin too. Why? As soon as he got laid, he said 'screw this being fat business, I want more sex.' Now, to be clear on this - that was his thing. He was as much a physical hedonist as mental. And that by no means is going to work for everyone.
But everyone has something they enjoy, find pleasurable, and will want to do better (unless they're of the mindset that they would be happy as a brain in a jar).
Maybe it's running around with the kids better. Maybe its taking care of an elderly parent better. (Me, I liked beating people up better).
But any of that can form a foundation for setting goals for fitness.
It's not going to come from a token investment of time from a university that puts the onus for finding methods to form habits on the student.
Change like that has to come from within. If someone is happy carrying some extra weight, if they're not unhealthy or harming themselves with some sort of obsessive eating behavior - why hassle them about it?
And indeed - what is a 'healthy lifestyle'? I have had people poke my belly and tell me I'm getting fat because I eat a bit richer food over the winter. Screw 'em. It's cold. I want a little extra insulation. I've got no one to impress (I'm married). I can run, swim and ski long and hard. I can lift a lot of weight. Who are they I have to live up to their standards?
Only one I have to answer to is myself. If I'm not healthy and I don't like it, I should be able to do something about it.
Because that's what's going to lead to forming habits.
You can't hand someone a 'healthy lifestyle.' They're going to do it themselves, or they're not.
And you can help that process or you can be smug and self-congratulating and perpetuate the behavior.
The latter is exactly what the school did. You see this in training all the time. A student goes down, loses, gets 'killed' (simulated) and an instructor blathers on about what the student did wrong how he (the bad-ass instructor) would have done it, maybe even replays the scenario with the instructor doing it 'successfully.'

All that does is set the 'loser' mentality in stone. What have these kids learned other than they're fat and they're going to be fat all their lives because now it's over.
Hell, it was never an ongoing thing in the first place. Stupid all the way around.
I've had students take hits, fall, whatever, look to me to end the exercise.... and I don't.
Well hey, they're thinking, I lose. He put me down. But nothing ends until you're actually dead. Why is it done just because you're down? That what you're going to do when someone actually knocks you down? No? Well, you play how you practice so suck it up and reengage.
Same deal here.
Fat is ongoing. So is fitness. Why treat it as something you ether pass or fail? Well - other than self-gratification for the school, nothing comes to mind. They're 'trying.'
Yeah, well, I go with Yoda on that. You do or do not. Trying is for people who are not succeeding. It's a teacher or instructors job to foster success. Have a student lose a pound, a half pound, have them put down one stinking donut and call it a win - anything to show them how to eliminate their flaws and introduce a chain of success no matter how small the beginning is. And make absolutely sure they accept failure as not only a matter of course, but as a learning opportunity.

Think failing this course was a learning opportunity? For any of them?
Context is everything. Especially where you can't control context, say, everywhere in the world outside religious cults and military training centers.
Just downright unfair setting a lifestyle task before someone without giving them the opportunity to really own it. The university is just making a pretense. Doing 'leadership' perhaps (instead of actually leading) and playing cover your ass in terms of trying to teach students to be healthy.
End of the day they can step away and say "well, WE tried" and blame the failure on the students.
Who are still unhealthy and likely will be the rest of their lives. If not because they didn't change habits, because they set this loser/fail mentality on them and set their self-destructive habits in stone.

It's the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching them how to fish. The university handed out fish and expected students to make rods and reels.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:20 AM on November 21, 2009


Those 30 students should just eat the administers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 AM on November 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


How about the weaklings who can't lift a carry-on case over their heads on an airplane?

Dude, what the hell have I ever done to you?!
posted by milarepa at 4:32 AM on November 21, 2009


This seems like it has the same rational that many colleges require their students to have health insurance: if you get sick or have an accident of some kind, without insurance, you might drop out of school to work instead to pay off your bills. If you're not eating right or having a healthy lifestyle, you are more likely to experience health problems and drop out. Thus, less money for the school.
posted by autoclavicle at 5:00 AM on November 21, 2009


Had to pass a swim test to graduate high school. There was a guy in my class year who had such low body fat that he couldn't float. And before you all say that this isn't possible, I watched him take in huge lungfuls of air and sink to the bottom of the pool. Demonstrating the ability to float was part of the test but I don't remember what they did to let him pass.

My high school also required that students either take a gym class each semester or participate in a sport. I honestly don't remember what disabled students did, but presumably options were available.

I think that Lincoln fails, if their goal is to graduate "healthy" students, in not requiring all of its students to take some form of gym/nutrition course. I think that Lincoln fails if the students are required to pay for this course. I think that Lincoln also fails by publicly identifying those students who don't meet their BMI criteria.

If their goal is to graduate healthy students, should they not also target those students who smoke or consume significant amounts of alcohol?
posted by sciencegeek at 5:13 AM on November 21, 2009


> Dude, what the hell have I ever done to you?

Dropped your carryon on my head?

;D
posted by Decimask at 6:00 AM on November 21, 2009


Given what I've been reading in Good Calories, Bad Calories, one wonders if a smart lawyer couldn't make a case about the material in the course...
posted by Zinger at 6:36 AM on November 21, 2009


Fat people are aware of nutrition, they are not fat out of ignorance.

I kind of disagree with the notion that fat people already know how to be healthy. I mean, I'm sure some are. But I know many otherwise-educated people who seem to believe that healthy eating is perfectly synonymous with raw lettuce. So they keep on trying these all-lettuce-all-the-time diets which they can't stick to for more than a few days because, let's face it, lettuce is fucking gross. They don't seem to understand that eating healthy can be a mild lifestyle change rather than a huge wrenching one. Imparting that knowledge, of how to prepare and find meals that are satisfying without being weight-imparting, would be beneficial to these folks that I know.
posted by breath at 6:40 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


jock@law - well, then the issue goes back to why they didn't graduate. Because they didn't take the required courses. Happens all the time. Students at my university don't take the required courses, they don't pass. My point was that, which courses are considered required is determined by some objective, but once it's determined, the student has a responsibility to complete it otherwise not graduate. An argument can be made - whether it's a good argument is entirely something else - that schools should help students make the investments necessary to increase their human capital and productivity at the margin.

Besides, with healthcare becoming more and more tax-funded, we need more preventative options on the table, not fewer. It's far cheaper to implement a class that discourages bad eating habits early in one's life than treating someone for heart disease later in life.
posted by scunning at 6:48 AM on November 21, 2009


Georgia Tech had a required one 3 credit hour course on physical fitness (HPS 1061). I doubt even the guys on football scholarships escaped these classes; definitely no exception for merely having a healthy lifestyle. I think there were two versions for students who enjoyed more or less physical activity, but both had lecture and in-class tests, i.e. students too lazy to exercise were required to learn more about the theory.

A university may not change or invalidate a course catalog once issued, modulo printing mistakes, etc. Any Lincoln who enrolled before these requirements were added to the course catalog must be permitted to graduate on their course catalog, period. You should know the course catalog you plan on graduating under. I kinda doubt it's discriminatory to require fat students take an extra course, but regardless the university needs a physical fitness requirement for all students.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:51 AM on November 21, 2009


If they're trying to devise a method for violating FERPA and HIPAA simultaneously, they're headed in the right direction.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:56 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I, for one, am glad that someone is standing up for the traditional values of snorting crystal meth and bulimia.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:04 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


My undergraduate school had a swimming requirement similar to the requirement here: you either had to pass a swim test (which was apparently pretty tough - I never tried) or take the class. There was also separate mandatory physical fitness class that everyone had to take, AFAIK.

The classes didn't require any particular level of performance to pass, but just good faith efforts.
posted by exogenous at 7:07 AM on November 21, 2009


BMI when? Upon entering? Semester weigh-ins? Pre-graduation weigh-ins? This is awful. I hear the people who are saying the students knew about it and agreed to it. So if a student has been obese for years, or students who are on sports teams would know, ok, I have to take this class, and can plan for it. What about those who weigh-in at 29 - 31 BMI, semester after semester? Driven students will take the gamble, take required or competitive classes, and stress the weight. Not to mention many people gain weight in college. Any situation where people are trying to "make weight" - think jockeys, think wrestlers or boxers, is going to lead to terribly unhealthy and dangerous behaviors.
posted by rainbaby at 7:14 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you people are missing the REAL story:

LIMB AMPUTATION BECOMES GRADUATION REQUIREMENT AT LINCOLN UNIVERSITY*

* if they don't lose weight using a different method, or attending a class.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:33 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there a mandatory ethics class at Lincoln U?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:33 AM on November 21, 2009


How embarrassing for both the university and the students.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:36 AM on November 21, 2009


Oh my fucking god, I was all set to write this wittily snide post about how, since Lincoln U cares so deeply for its students' health, I'm certain the dorm dining halls and other campus food spots serve absolutely no french fries, whole milk, red meat, or refined flour products and that all the vending machines dispense nothing but crudites, hummus, and Granny Smith apples.

And then I saw that there's an actual KFC franchise in the Lincoln U student center.

*head spins around five times and then asplodes*
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:04 AM on November 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm firmly in the camp of those who think making this a requirement to graduate is completely wrong for so many reasons.

While I agree that this is discriminatory and possibly even a waste of time, however, I would like to hear from the students it affects. "Students interviewed for the story seemed upset by the requirement and, perhaps, a bit blindsided by it." It is the "blindsided" part that has me concerned. Did these students really not know the requirements to graduate? Or was it a case of not knowing their own BMI? Also, how did the school enforce this? Were incoming Freshmen weighed and then weighed again every year? Reading the article it sounds like only the incoming Freshmen with BMIs over 30 had this requirement, but what of those students who gained weight during their time at school?

James L. DeBoy, chair of Lincoln’s health, physical education and recreation department, said he sees it as his “professional responsibility to be honest and tell students they’re not healthy.”
This sounds like one guy with too much power and a bee in his bonnet. Did nobody else in authority question that this might be an ill-considered, even illegal, policy?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2009


So this was *in addition* to any health class that was part of the curriculum? I did have to take a general health class that covered exactly this information - as did every other sudent at my university.
posted by medea42 at 8:21 AM on November 21, 2009


Sounds like a poorly-thought out good intention that went completely haywire. Yes, it is a good thing to promote good health, and reducing obesity is part of that (obesity rates have massively increased recently, and I can't quite believe that's all down to hormones), but health is such a complicated issue that you cannot possibly boil it down to a single number and then base policy on it.

Case in point - I'm right in the middle of the "Normal" band on the usual height/weight graphs, and to look at me you'd probably guess that I was reasonably fit. And you would be wrong. The only reason I'm not the size of a house is that I have the metabolism of a hyperactive gerbil - I don't cycle any more (because now I live in London and I don't have a death wish), I don't work out, and I eat very badly.

I know full well that this is a problem, because if I have to run for a train I'm left gasping for air for about ten minutes. Being horribly unfit does not necessarily have any link at all with how big you are, and it's daft to base university policy on the assumption that it always does.
posted by ZsigE at 8:48 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are two continuums:
overweight<>skinny
in shape<>out of shape

Take four groups of people:
In shape, normal to skinny
in shape, overweight
out of shape, overweight
out of shape, normal to skinny

How healthy are these people, measured by how likely they are to die in the next few years? There have been a lot of large scale studies of this, including one that followed thousands of nurses over many years.

Clearly the overweight, out of shape group does the worse and the under-to-normal in shape group does the best.

But what of the two remaining groups? What would you guess? Most people would guess wrong. The overweight, in shape group turns out to be MUCH healthier than the normal+skinny out of shape group.

(And I say this as a skinny person, so I'm not spouting self-selected justifications.)

So they should ignore the BMI (which, as has been stated, is a lousy measurement anyway), and simply have the students run on a treadmill. If they are out of shape, they should recommend that they take an exercise class. Overweight or anorexic, it shouldn't matter.
posted by eye of newt at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


The college I went to once had a requirement that students be able to swim across the pool in order to graduate. Yes, I kid not! The historical reason was that a number of graduates had died when the Titanic sunk. I'm not sure what being able to swim would do in the middle of a freezing cold ocean.

Before I went to the school they finally got rid of this requirement. Why? They had closed the old small pool and opened a large Olympic sized pool. A few of the soon-to-be graduates probably would have drowned trying to swim across it.
posted by eye of newt at 9:46 AM on November 21, 2009


Yikes, I've been Snoped! The school did have a swim test, and more appropriate to this discussion, some still do, but it had nothing to do with the Titanic.
posted by eye of newt at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2009


Universities should have self-righteousness correction classes, and people who can't pass those should be prevented from graduating. Never mind a few overweight people, the whole of humanity would benefit from fewer self-righteous assholes in the world.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:13 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Universities should have self-righteousness correction classes

Wouldn't that be shooting themselves right in the raison d'etre?

I keed, I keed, I have lived or worked on one campus or another for 30 years.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:16 AM on November 21, 2009


There are two requirements at work here, according to this article. All students have to get their BMI tested, and then those with BMIs over 30 have to take this class. So seniors could be in danger two ways, because any senior who hasn't had their BMI tested is not going to graduate, regardless of weight.

I did like the one senior who has a BMI under 30, but is taking the class anyway.
posted by Danila at 10:52 AM on November 21, 2009


This is idiotic--a general health class for everyone would be far better.

That said, last week, I spent a day in a workshop with fellow contributors to another website, and at the end of it, we had a group photo taken. All the people representing the website were foreigners--Israeli, English, Dutch and French, and the contributors were all American. And the latter group were all, to a man and woman, considerably chunkier than the foreigners. We're fat, people (fellow Americans.)
posted by etaoin at 12:14 PM on November 21, 2009


You forgot to mention Germans.
posted by eye of newt at 12:40 PM on November 21, 2009


Presumably, these students went to Lincoln to get an education—liberal arts, engineering, air-conditioner repair, whatever.

Why is the school meddling in their personal lives?

If they wanted to get fit or learn about good health habits, they would have joined a gym or hired a trainer.

I understand college is a good time, and a good opportunity, to teach kids about making good lifestyle choices. I'm all for diet and health classes, safe-sex information, rape prevention, and AA meetings on campus. But the school shouldn't be in the business of deciding who's thin, chaste, respectful or sober -- and then making students dependent on those decisions to get their degrees.
posted by PlusDistance at 1:48 PM on November 21, 2009


Unless the person in charge of this policy has simply lost it--some overpromoted "wellness coordinator" who snapped during a seminar on the evils of high-fructose corn syrup or something--then it's extremely unlikely that this policy happened in a vacuum; parents and/or alumni gave the administration an earful about how many students were overweight and how it didn't look good for the school and maybe they'd just keep their checkbooks tucked away while the administrators came up with a plan for just what the hell they intended to do about it. So, this course is the compromise that they came up with--the students are, after all, adults, and if they take the KFC away the kids will just go down the street. At least this way, they can say that the students can't claim that they didn't know any better.

Even as someone who's overweight and has taken his share of grief over it, I'm not seeing a lot of reason for bitching here. As far as I can tell, they're not being charged one extra dollar of tuition for this class, or that it's a much tougher course than most phys ed electives in college, or that there aren't exceptions or waivers for people physically incapable of participating. (Here's the course description:
HPR-103 Fitness for Life 1 credit
Students will be provided the opportunity to improve their health-related fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, and flexibility. Exercise interventions will include: walking, cycling, aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, and strength training. Additionally, students will record and monitor their nutrition for purposes of maintaining an optimal diet. Self-assessment on the aforementioned fitness components will enable students to maintain healthy lifestyles after the course.
Not exactly your Marines basic training regimen, or, for that matter, the "Shame On You, Fatty" spectacle that some commenters are imagining.) I had plenty of room in a four-year undergraduate program for phys ed electives, myself, although I can't really say that they helped in the long run.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:58 PM on November 21, 2009


"Exercise interventions"? Wow, that's just dripping with the nasty, far as I'm concerned. There's a college catalog that gets filed in the recycle bin. And a university that gets dissed in conversation at every opportunity.

I can't help but wonder, does the university choosing to involve themselves in the health issues of some students (the fat ones) and not others (the skinny, the anorexic, smokers, etc) open themselves to liability for failing those others? Either this sort of thing is the providence of an institution of higher education, or it is not. If it is, then I don't see how this narrow a focus is justifiable.

Further, it is difficult for me to imagine that their cafeterias are all about healthy food. Healthy food doesn't work that well in a cafeteria setting. That being the case, are students provided appropriate facilities to prepare healthy meals?

And finally, I find the logic totally flawed and reflecting serious ignorance, to suggest for even a moment that only overweight people need to be educated about nutrition. That such a flaw is actual policy in a university is beyond absurd, beyond funny, and in the realm of ditto-head idiocy. Time to add Lincoln University to the kill-filter on resume submissions.
posted by Goofyy at 9:05 PM on November 21, 2009


I want to add, for all the "BUT THEY HAD THE OPTION TO TAKE THE CLASS INSTEAD OF LOSING WEIGHT" people that the reason they didn't take the class is very likely that they thought they could lose the weight, that they tried to lose the weight, and they failed. Oh well, just punish them for trying by explaining to them that exercise and eating less is good FOR AN ENTIRE SEMESTER INSTEAD OF A REAL CLASS. I'm sure no one ever told them that their entire lives.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:00 PM on November 22, 2009


Unfounded speculation doesn't make for a particularly strong argument.
posted by cribcage at 2:32 PM on November 22, 2009


Yeah all fatties love being fatties and never want or try to lose weight.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:04 PM on November 22, 2009


jock@law: the school in this case has decided that Z should represent a minimum baseline of knowledge about nutrition and exercise; and they have decided that they will test that knowledge not by an abstract test but in actual practice.

The problem is that BMI is not an instructionally sound metric on which to measure that kind of practice. BMI works well as a statistical aggregate but doesn't distinguish between:

1: people who are on medically-supervised weight loss and maintenance diets, which on average have fairly modest modest results
2: athletes who tend to have higher body mass, thus higher BMI
3: people who lower than the threshold but still have significant dietary deficiencies

If you really want an instructionally-sound pretest based on practice probably the best way is to have people do food diaries. But by then, you might as well have everyone take the class. And this would probably be the best policy for everyone involved.

But using a statistic as a pretest that has minimal correlation with the required competencies is really bad and stupid practice for a university.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:32 PM on November 22, 2009


I guess this is one of those classes where "The dog ate my homework" really would of helped get better grades.
posted by Merlin The Happy Pig at 5:04 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


(obesity rates have massively increased recently, and I can't quite believe that's all down to hormones)

It's because the line for obese/overweight was lowered in 1998. The redefinition threw a bunch of people from the "normal" category into "overweight," despite there being no change in their weight.
posted by cereselle at 8:52 AM on November 23, 2009


Some of the comments on this thread really frighten me, as do comments made on similar threads. It seems as though a good portion of the MetaFilter community is of the "OMG I hate fatties, no fat chicks" mentality that is also commonly seen on YouTube comments and on Yahoo Answers. I don't know about the rest of you, but I joined this community to become interested in all of the interesting things, people, and problems that the world has to offer. I did not join to outspokenly hate selected groups of people in the same ways that morons on the aforementioned sites do.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against people who simply disagree with me or who are troubled because people who are overweight may or may not be unhealthy. However, I should hope that no one in this community would wish suffering or degradation on others.

That university policy is degrading, no ifs, ands, or buts. I don't really like it or think it is intelligent when people smoke cigarettes but I would never subject them to this kind of treatment.

Maybe these administrators would be more justified if they were, you know, perfect. As in had absolutely no faults. But wait, you mean to say that sometimes you make bad decisions that negatively impact your life? I had better save you from yourself by making your life even harder.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


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