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You can’t be fat if you want to graduate Lincoln University

This is probably going to mortify a few people:

More than two dozen seniors at Lincoln University, in Oxford, Pa., are in danger of not being able to graduate this spring — not because they’re under disciplinary probation or haven’t fulfilled the requirements of their majors, but because they were obese as freshmen.

All had body mass index (BMI) scores above 30 — the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ threshold for obesity — when they arrived on campus in the fall of 2006, but none have taken college-sanctioned steps to show they’ve lost weight or at least tried. They’re in the historically black university’s 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.

One critic notes the requirement “raises questions about personal rights and which trumps, personal rights or university policy.” But not really.

I went to a Mennonite college in Kansas which had an abundance of rules regarding personal behavior — rules that most college students would never live with: No drinking. No smoking. No sex outside marriage. No swearing. I had one beer in college — and happened to be in Idaho at the time. It took a few more years before my inner hedonist would come crawling out, but in the meantime no harm was done. And long term? I get to amaze people with stories about my Mennonite college.

One of the other rules was that young men and women weren’t really allowed in each other’s dorm rooms — and just about everybody lived on campus. There were visiting hours a few hours on Sundays and Tuesdays, but you had to leave the door open a crack to ensure no hanky panky was going on. (And as a resident assistant three of my four years there, I helped enforce these rules.)

Every fall, a few freshmen would put up a fuss about the rules. We’re adults now! Who is the college to tell us what we can do? Which was a fine point, except for one thing: Nobody made those kids — or anybody — attend Tabor College. Now it’s true a lot of the kids probably faced pretty hefty pressure to attend the “church school.” And probably a few of those kids wouldn’t have received family financial support to go elsewhere. But in the end, those young adults were … adults. They made their choices and knew the rules going in. Complaining about the rules you knew were part of the experience always struck me as kind of silly.

Same with Lincoln University, I think. From what I can tell, these students knew what the rules for graduation were at the outset. Those rules seem kind of draconian to me. I wouldn’t have adopted them. But those were the rules. If students don’t want to live by them, they surely have options other than Lincoln University.

  1. phillygrrl Says: Nov 23 12:37 AM

    “It took a few more years before my inner hedonist would come crawling out, but in the meantime no harm was done. And long term? I get to amaze people with stories about my Mennonite college.”

    Always fun to do :)

  2. Fat people are the ‘new Jews’: Lincoln University says fat people are not allowed to graduate « Freedom and Linux Says: Nov 23 7:48 AM

    [...] Tagged discrimination, lincoln university, obesity, obesity reichstag, rockefeller http://blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com/politics/2009/11/22/you-cant-be-fat-if-you-want-to-graduate-linc... [...]

  3. KhabaLox Says: Nov 23 1:05 PM

    I’m not too sure I agree with you Joel. This seems to be getting pretty close to the discrimination line. Private entities, like schools are entitled to have rules graduation requirements for their students, but at some point, those may cross the line. For example, I think we would all agree that a college couldn’t require a student be under (or over) a certain age before graduation (i.e. age-discrimination), or be of a certain race, or convert to a certain religion. Those examples are federally protected classes. Fat people are not (for better or worse), so I think it’s legal in this case, but I’m not sure it’s right.

    If they had said, all students must take this Health class to graduate, that would be one thing. But here they are saying, this one group of people must take this class to graduate, and that is discriminatory. (Imagine if they said, “All Jews must take Christianity 101 or get baptized in order to graduate”.)

  4. JoeLaw Says: Nov 23 3:28 PM

    KhabaLox said “(Imagine if they said, “All Jews must take Christianity 101 or get baptized in order to graduate”.)”

    Actually, a private religious based institution could require graduates to be Christian and/or be baptized. That’s protected and not discrimination. Faith-based organizations, including Universities, may discriminate based on religious beliefs. Separation of Church and State runs both ways.

    I see no problem with the BMI requirement. Lincoln should be praised for trying to teach their students the value of healthy living. They knew the requirements going in. If they didn’t like it, there are other universities in this great country that you can attend. Personal responsibility. They had four years to get their weight under control. They chose not to. No one is to blame for this except the students who chose not to fulfill the requirement. It is a requirement for graduation. Sorry, no diploma.

  5. Kelsey Says: Nov 23 4:35 PM

    I definitely agree with you. I actually think that this is a great policy and other colleges should think about enforcing it in their schools as well. I know that weight loss isn’t possible for everyone, but if that person isn’t making a sincere effort and doesn’t have a medical condition, then they aren’t taking care of their bodies properly.

  6. nora Says: Nov 24 12:35 AM

    If the overweight people can prove it is disability related as to their weight they could really nail this school!

  7. Trisha Says: Nov 24 4:24 PM

    This is not only a crude and distasteful mandate it is also a pathetic attempt for soceity to control the rights for any American to have their right to an education. When the average size in this country is a size 16, why do you want a world of low class tramps like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsey Lohan determining how we are supposed to look? If the college officials at Lincoln think this is such a wonderful idea, let’s see what their BMI is. Futhermore, I am proud to be a big girl, and I will never hcange myself for anyone. To the students at Lincoln who fall into the same category as myself and plenty of other Americans I say to you…Keep your heads up, don’t let the bastards bring you down. Fight for your education and never quit. Don’t let soceity tell you how to live.

  8. KhabaLox Says: Nov 24 4:39 PM

    JoeLaw said: “That’s protected and not discrimination. Faith-based organizations, including Universities, may discriminate based on religious beliefs. Separation of Church and State runs both ways.”

    That’s very surprising. Why is my employer not allowed to discriminate against my religion (or lack thereof, in my case)? Is the private religious school allowed to discriminate in employment as well, or only in admissions?

  9. Trisha Says: Nov 24 6:07 PM

    KhabaLox, you are undoubtly the most intelligent person answering these posts. You and I must be the only ones thinking with logic and not the “Christian Right” like the rest of these idiots. Here we go, how about this, I am fat and wiccan..how about that? However, I graduated a top rated university and I was allowed to have my education, let’s see does JoeLaw and all these other idiots want me to give my diploma back?

  10. Emma Says: Nov 27 5:43 AM

    well as everyone knows..it is the schools fault that kids today are fat. so im glad to see a school take on the responsbility to ensure that they arent fat anymore. because id hate to think of anyone in this country taking personal responsibility for anything.

  11. Margaret Says: Nov 27 7:04 AM

    What about those people who have a lot of muscle and would exceed the BMI not due to fat but muscle?
    Margaret

  12. Touchet Says: Nov 27 2:35 PM

    It doesn’t say you can’t be fat. It just says you have to take a PE class. This is most likely because alot of university require that class anyway. So instead of making everyone take it, they are only making people who are out of shape take it.

    The issue seems to be that these people who are “out of shape” don’t want to take a PE class. Now, i wonder why.

  13. JackieN Says: Nov 27 4:26 PM

    I used to be morbidly obese. I lost nearly 200 pounds and am now at my ideal body weight. It took alot of hard work, and most importantly, it took me wanting to do it for myself more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. It took making a lifelong commitment to change my eating and exercise habits, not just for one semester, but for LIFE. Do they really think FORCING an obese person to take a PE class is going to bring about the permanent lifestyle changes necessary to make a difference? I’ve never known anyone who has been successful at anything, much less something as hard as losing weight, when it was forced upon them. In fact, when I was obese, being forced to take such a class would have had the opposite effect on me. My inner passive-agressiveness (and I think alot of obese people are passive-aggressive) would have come out and I would have probably GAINED weight during the semester. Wanting students to lose weight and live healthy is a worthwile ideal, but they are going about it all the wrong way and in the end, it will be not only degrading to the effected students, but counter-productive as well.

  14. yvon Says: Nov 27 9:07 PM

    I cannot believe that…it is discrimination!
    I’m an overweight person…due to no thyroid..I had a “pound” of it taken out..it was choking me..grew in my throat…as a result of it..I still have severe cramping of my muscles in random episodes..sometimes makes it difficult to walk and some functions…
    It hasnt affected my life..
    I walk all over..paint write..make crafts with my hands..
    I’ve raised 4 kids put myself through college and my children all have attended college ..none of them are obese.
    being fat doesnt affect my brain nor my talents…

    Why not offer P.E. Classes to all….when I was growing up..P.E…was a regular program in all our schools..I do think it was a big mistake to pull that program…no look at the shape of our kids… you should be helping not punishing those who need help…
    what next..short…bald..ugly..or overly thin people?
    how about kicking out the mean spirited..haughty…stuck up people who think they are better than the rest?..oops..that could be admin too.. right?

  15. Sonia Says: Nov 28 12:53 AM

    While trying to ensure that their graduating students maintain a healthy life style is a noble cause, I have to admit the way they are going about it leads way too many questions. I don’t know all the facts on this but were these particular students given tools to help lower their BMI or was it on their own? And if they are mandating this for obese people, what about those that are obiviously mal-nurished and have BMIs under 18? I would say in fairness, they too should be mandated to take such course in order to graduate. I believe this university needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more productive way to help these students

  16. Josh Rosenau Says: Dec 1 8:47 PM

    My college required new students to take a swimming test, and if they failed it, to take swimming lessons. You couldn’t graduate otherwise. Seems like the same basic idea as the obesity policy, but was uncontroversial. I guess non-swimmers don’t feel like that’s a part of their identity, and obesity is for some people.

  17. ceebee Says: Dec 4 5:30 AM

    Unreal. The rules/requirements should be for everyone. Not for a specific class or target. That’s discrimination.

    Schools in general are just a joke and a waste of money. Schools are nothing but broken promises and dreams. They teach people nothing of real value. The only thing schools teach is how to be subservient under a “one world government”. No free thinking, no creativity, no independence in schools.

    Better off using the internet for learning and education. You learn a lot more than being inside the box. A degree/diploma is nothing but a piece of paper.

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