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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Diplomas for Fatties?

Posted by on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 6:08 PM

This is nuts...

Lincoln University students will now have to endure a physical exam determining each student's BMI (body mass index) before they are permitted to graduate. An individual's BMI measures the amount of body fat. Amid fierce criticisms, Lincoln University has recently installed a new requirement for its undergraduate students. If your BMI is over 30, you are required to take a physical education class.

This new requirement has caused an uproar from some students and professors who argue that the university is actively discriminating against those who are obese. Some students argue that their time at Lincoln may be prolonged because of an additional class.

There are so many problems with this I don't even know where to begin. If someone has done her required coursework, she deserves her diploma, regardless of the size of her ass. Or his ass. Also, the BMI—which I have never defended—is a crude instrument and Lincoln's standard will sweep up plenty of non-obese students. And if Lincoln University thinks that students would benefit from a physical education requirement, then the university should require all students to take a physical education course, not just students with BMIs over 30. The fat activists are right about one thing: there are plenty of unhealthy skinny bitches out there who could benefit from a little physical education. Everyone could benefit.

People have a right to live their lives and make their own choices even if their choices aren't necessarily healthy. I have no argument with big people—some of my best friends, favorite relatives, etc., are big—who aren't in denial about the elevated health risks that come with the added weight. I have an argument with big people who insist that it's bigoted to assert that there's some connection between diet, exercise, and size, or that obesity doesn't carry certain known health risks. Basically I have an argument with people who expect others to coddle and excuse in order to make them feel less conflicted about all the chow they're shoveling in. But I don't believe university administrators—who should focused on brains, not butts—have a right to meddle in the private lives of students like this. It's intrusive and it's discriminatory.


Comments (60) RSS

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you're an idiot kill yourself
Posted by Swearengen on November 24, 2009 at 6:41 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 2
Totally agree. Making only overweight people take PE is ridiculous. If you believe there is value in physical education, make all students take it.

That's what my college did -- all freshman had to take 6 rotations of PE (which totaled 2 semesters). Few people grumbled about the PE requirement because the classes were really cool -- I took golf, fencing, ice skating, and ballroom dance. Though, you did have to pass a swimming test (not that difficult), or one semester had to be swimming, and there were certainly people who complained about that aspect of it...
Posted by Julie in Eugene on November 24, 2009 at 6:41 PM · Report this
Knat 3
God forbid you have some extra pounds on you when you graduate, since that might really interfere with your ability to sit in a chair and type on a keyboard for hours on end, as most people do in this modern world.
Posted by Knat on November 24, 2009 at 6:52 PM · Report this
Exactly. I am all for schools(though college is a bit too late) teaching kids about health and fitness. There is a lot of misinformation out there and giving kids solid science backed knowledge on how to be healthy is a great thing. Using an imperfect measure to punish people thought to be fat not so much.
Posted by giffy on November 24, 2009 at 6:52 PM · Report this
Telsa Grills 5
This demonizes the "freshman 15".
Posted by Telsa Grills on November 24, 2009 at 6:55 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
Terrible move on the school's part. I suspect this requirement won't last long.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on November 24, 2009 at 6:55 PM · Report this
It will never hold up to legal challenge. I am betting the ACLU is already working on this one.

That said, it's worth following the link to the original story and reading the comments. The con-suurvtivs are making this out to be Obama's fault -- trying to paint this as government gittin' its elitist fingers on yur healthcare. Fox News is all over it.
Posted by sad on November 24, 2009 at 6:58 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 8
Wait until the entire football team flunks because of all that muscle mass. Fucking morons.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on November 24, 2009 at 7:04 PM · Report this
Thanks Dan, that was nuanced and fair. I might disagree with a tiny bit of phrasing or whatnot, but I still appreciate the post.
Posted by olechka on November 24, 2009 at 7:14 PM · Report this
misterlevitan 10
i think health insurance should come with an annual BMI measure. too fat? no donut, no discount.
Posted by misterlevitan on November 24, 2009 at 7:17 PM · Report this
@8, personally I think that would be funny. And embarrassing for the college. What *will* happen when the young males who take weightlifting seriously start failing? I'm not sure they considered this thoroughly :)

Posted by diane b on November 24, 2009 at 7:21 PM · Report this
Studies show that something like 95% of dieters eventually regain all of the weight they lost. Are fat people all inherently weak-willed and prone to failure? This seems unlikely, as many obese people are quite successful in professional fields that require a great deal of willpower and self-control. The alternative explanation is that losing weight is extraordinarily difficult, far more so than naturally thin people (such as Dan Savage) want to imagine.

Measurments of various signaling hormones (such as insulin) show that obese people develop a chronic metabolic imbalance that causes them to feel starved for energy, even when they are well fed. Imagine being hungry and tired all the time, even when you've just eaten a large meal. That's the world of the obese person. The condition can be reversed, but it's not simply a matter of "putting down the fork." Dieting is miserable, difficlut work, and to suggest otherwise is fatuous.
Posted by Furcifer on November 24, 2009 at 7:23 PM · Report this
Why do you have a problem with people who are in denial about the elevated health risks that come with their obesity?
Posted by CG on November 24, 2009 at 7:27 PM · Report this
Using BMI? What kind of dumb asses are in charge of this school? By now it's pretty common knowledge the BMI is less than accurate.
Posted by Surprisingly Helpful on November 24, 2009 at 7:31 PM · Report this
13: That's not quite what Dan said. The problem is *with people who claim that he's bigoted* when he says there are elevated health risks.
Posted by AK on November 24, 2009 at 7:32 PM · Report this
Irena 16
Just -- wow. I assume smokers and heavy drinkers won't be permitted to graduate either, then? And what about students whose BMI's are lower than recommended?
Posted by Irena on November 24, 2009 at 7:32 PM · Report this
john t 17
"An individual's BMI measures the amount of body fat."

Since it's a student newspaper, I won't harsh on them too much for not having a fact-checking department. But BMI does not measure the amount of body fat, it's just a number that's derived from one's height and weight. According to the BMI chart, a man who is 6' and 190 pounds has a BMI of 25.8 and is therefore "overweight" regardless of his skeletal proportions or body composition. At 6' tall, a man would have to weigh over 220 to get a BMI of 30, which puts most men in the objectively fat category, but plenty of men that size are muscular and "big boned" and perfectly fit.
Posted by john t on November 24, 2009 at 7:41 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 18
@12 - THANK YOU.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on November 24, 2009 at 7:49 PM · Report this
4f...sake 19
@2 I agree. I believe the requirement when I was in college was 4 credits. It was fun and an easy A. This is complete bullshit and I can't imagine it will last.
Posted by 4f...sake on November 24, 2009 at 8:00 PM · Report this
danewood 20
It is not difficult to "diet". Dieting just means eating like you probably should. If you're trying to lose weight it's an easy matter of burning more calories than you are eating. ? Put down the fucking bag of potato chips, stop drinking your sugar drinks (and yes, that means fruit juices) and switch it up with water. Don't want to feel hungry all the time? Eat lean proteins and fill up on vegetables.

I was just about to top the scales at 300lbs. I'm now a lean 180. And why was I fat? I ate horribly and I didn't exercise. I am telling you all now, if you want to lose weight just follow the simple formula of calories in and calories out and fucking educate yourselves.
Posted by danewood on November 24, 2009 at 8:31 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 21
Uh... everyone on the defensive line of every college football team has a BMI over 30.

This is stupid.

I'm all for encouraging people to be healthy, and that includes loosing a few pounds if you are overweight enough to cause health problems. But this has no place in academics. If you pass your classes, you are entitled to your degree.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on November 24, 2009 at 8:32 PM · Report this
Yes, require PE for everyone. Some will say that college students are adults and should be allowed to make their own choices, but this is stupid. Executive function- ability to make good decisions and act on them- doesn't fully mature until age 25. Require all students to take PE and they'll all be healthier, happier, hotter, and less stressed. You'll have better grades, fewer dropouts, fewer suicides. Win all around.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on November 24, 2009 at 8:34 PM · Report this
stupid, dumb, whatever, if you don't like it don't go to Lincoln University.

You have the right to make bad choices, right? Like the choice to be unhealthy?

Why don't they have the right to make bad choices, too?
Posted by Usu. more SD than libertarian actually on November 24, 2009 at 8:34 PM · Report this

While I appreciate your views on this, I do NOT appreciate your use of insulting phrases like "chow they're shoveling in."

Show a little sensitivity if you want to remain relevant in public discourse. Just a suggestion.

Posted by awerling on November 24, 2009 at 8:34 PM · Report this
ams_ 25
And what about people who never drop the weight? Are they not permitted to graduate? Is this college trying to strengthen the correlation between obesity and poverty?

What a bunch of assholes.
Posted by ams_ on November 24, 2009 at 8:35 PM · Report this
i heard their Head of Health & Phys Ed Dept (or whatever) on NPR defending this bullshit. Host asked, "some say this is an isolated campus and the food served in dining service isn't very healthy." his defense: "HBCUs are all underfunded and have to skimp on food." may be true, but now who is being assigned blame and punished for this shit?
then i went to the school's website, found Dining Services, and right now, in return for completing a survey, they are giving away coupons for free food from KFC. Nice:…
i would lose my shit if i had to take this class while their Dining Services are handing out KFC coupons.
Posted by ExiledInLA on November 24, 2009 at 9:00 PM · Report this
Hmm. My parents said when they went to Penn State a few decades ago, they had to run a 7-minute mile freshman year or else take a bunch of PE classes. It doesn't really sound so different, except for the testing criterion.
Posted by phaedrus on November 24, 2009 at 9:06 PM · Report this
@27: Doesn't sound so different? Penn State required EVERYONE to demonstrate some level of fitness or take fitness classes. Lincoln is only picking on overweight people (and bodybuilders). It is the difference between a "requirement" and "discrimination." And that is the only relevant issue here.
Posted by renbot on November 24, 2009 at 9:15 PM · Report this
First this is a violation of HIPAA, and secondly, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Aside from those two(fatal) flaws, it's simply stupid. They are there for an education, not a fitness seminar.
Posted by dilsnik on November 24, 2009 at 9:30 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 30
@27, Though I think just making everyone take the class is better, I would actually be okay with them saying, you have to be able to run a 7 minute mile or you take PE. Or, you have to pass a swim test or take swimming. Or something along those lines. But, using BMI as a criteria is stupid. If "fitness" is the goal, then there are certainly people with "normal" BMIs who are not fit. If "fitness education" is the goal, then there are certainly obese people who know how to structure an exercise regiment and "normal" BMI people who don't.

One of my friends and I are both of "normal" weight -- I work out 5-6 times a week, she has probably worked out 5-6 times in her life. If anyone should have to take a PE class, it would be her, and yet, she wouldn't have to do it under this criteria.
Posted by Julie in Eugene on November 24, 2009 at 9:40 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 31
This has got to be a joke. It's a joke right? Some one, any one tell me this is a joke. It's a Joke right?
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 24, 2009 at 9:44 PM · Report this

Sounds like a place where a really svelte chick can get an "easy A".

Posted by The Waitresses on November 24, 2009 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Dan and other fat shamers love to "help" point out the health disadvantages of being fat, just like the homophobes like to come on here and "help" point out the health risks of being gay. In the end they both miss the point - it comes with the territory.

You know what else has high health risks and cost? Being tall. Being female. Being black. Being native american.

All this fixation with obesity spirals down until we have a university wanting "help" its students by fixating on BMI. They solely target larger students and do nothing to create a healthier environment overall because in the end, this is not about helping, it is not about health, it is about fat shaming people who do not fit the acceptable skinny mold.
Posted by kersy on November 24, 2009 at 10:22 PM · Report this
kim in portland 34
BMI is a lame criteria. I had to swim a mile, free stroke head out of the water, and it was required for all. If we failed then we had to take PE, one semester. We were informed it was about making us all well rounded individuals.
Posted by kim in portland on November 24, 2009 at 10:22 PM · Report this
@15 Fair enough. I guess what I'm really asking is why he feels it necessary to raise the issue. If he doesn't care if people are fat, why should he care if they're fat and prefer to think it doesn't hurt them?
Posted by CG on November 24, 2009 at 10:25 PM · Report this
yes, its nuts, but may I point out your verbage:

"I have no argument with [gay] people—some of my best friends, favorite relatives, etc., are [gay]—who aren't in denial about the elevated [AIDS] risks that come with the [lifestyle] ... Basically I have an argument with people who expect others to coddle and excuse in order to make them feel less conflicted about all the [dick] they're [pounding] in."

Doesn't that sound ridiculous, aren't you offended????? I would say if someone said something like the altered quote above, you would likely tell them to get out of the closet already. So Dan, sounds to me like you are either 1) truly bigoted against "big" people or 2) have a secret fatty fetish.
Posted by jskiier on November 24, 2009 at 10:32 PM · Report this
baconpussy 37
It's a classically African-American school. Are they doing this because obesity is more prevalent in the Black community? I'm only asking...don't flame me.
Posted by baconpussy on November 24, 2009 at 10:34 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 38
do any of the commenters here know, or care, where Lincoln University is, or plan on sending the product of their fat loins to this particular 'college'? this is a PR stunt, and successful at that.
Posted by wilbur@work on November 24, 2009 at 10:36 PM · Report this
Simac 39
BMI is pretty useless as an indicator either of appropriate weight or of general health. Here are some BMIs of people considered "obese" under BMI guidelines:

Mel Gibson (5'9" @ 214 lbs) = 32 BMI
The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) (6'5" @ 275 lbs) = 33 BMI
Mike Tyson (5'11" @ 218 lbs) = 30 BMI

Considered "overweight" by BMI guidelines:
Tom Cruise (5'7" @ 170) = 26 BMI
Matt Damon (5'11" @ 187) = 26
Harrison Ford (6'1" @ 218) = 29

Also, plenty of skinny people have unhealthy but *invisible* habits (poor diet, no exercise, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, smoking, what have you).
Posted by Simac on November 24, 2009 at 10:42 PM · Report this
sean_is_taken 40
Ever heard of skinny fatties, Lincoln U?!!
Posted by sean_is_taken on November 24, 2009 at 10:52 PM · Report this
@36 Right on.
Posted by Sailoreic on November 24, 2009 at 11:09 PM · Report this
Christampa 42
@36 - That doesn't sound very ridiculous, nor is it very offensive. Do you think Dan doesn't know about the elevated risk of AIDS among gay men? If he was ever unaware before, he certainly isn't now with that troll running around.
But do you think Dan is actually at a much higher risk than most straight people to get AIDS? Probably not, because he controls the inherent risk of being a gay man. Actual fat people can control the risks of being fat, too, as I'm sure you know. But many of them don't and some of those are the same people who bitch about him being a bigot.

Why does he always bring this up, when fat people supposedly already know all this? Maybe it's just some tic of his. I know that it pisses me off that there are websites out there glorifying anorexia. If I had a soapbox, I'd be ranting and raving about that all the time.
Posted by Christampa on November 24, 2009 at 11:37 PM · Report this
36 - uhm - two problems with your argument:
a) I think even if we may disagree on how much of the process of losing weight is "choice", I think we can all agree that there are a lot more big people who choose successfully to lose weight than there are gay people who choose successfully to be straight.

b) I think Dan has been quite open in the past about the fact that he does think gays face some particular strong health and safety concerns and shouldn't ignore those. As opposed to the health risks associated with obesity, though, most of these risks can be addressed by adjusting individual behavior.
Posted by adam.smith on November 24, 2009 at 11:43 PM · Report this
About #36, replacing "gays" with "gays who have promiscuous sex" or just "people who have promiscuous sex" (or just "sluts" to make it less clunky) wouldn't raise any eyebrows at all. And context is everything- an actual bigot would not differentiate between just being gay and being slutty, and would be writing with an ulterior motive. There's a world of difference between that and a guy like Dan saying "Sluttiness DOES carry risks, but if you're aware of the risks and are happy being a slut, more power to ya!"
Posted by MySpoonIsTooBig on November 25, 2009 at 2:34 AM · Report this
#36. If we put your fake paragraph in the context of Dan's original paragraph (i.e., people pretending that they're not being unhealthy when they actually are), it's nothing that I've not read from Dan's own site. He's taken barebackers to task; he's taken gay men who engage in unsafe practices to task many times. He's pointed out the hypocrisy and danger of gay rights groups coddling and excusing gay men who are unsafe.

Your attempted "gotcha" is a Fail.
Posted by jade on November 25, 2009 at 5:50 AM · Report this
@20: The simplistic "I lost weight, therefore everyone should be able to" argument doesn't fly and is not helpful. Everyone's body is different. My wife has been trying to lose her extra 15 pounds for a year now. She doesn't drink alcohol or any sugary drinks, eats tons of vegetables and fruit, etc. In other words, her diet is far more healthy than 90 percent of the people on Slog. But losing that extra weight is a huge struggle for her, and a lot of other people.

Telling them to stop eating potato chips is mean-spirited and ignorant.
Posted by bigyaz on November 25, 2009 at 9:19 AM · Report this
Hyzenthlayk9 47
A much better option would be to require swimming (lessons/class/demonstrated skills) as in the cases mentioned by Julie @30 and Kim @34. Especially in light of the fact that many city kids aren't exposed to water safety classes let alone taught how to swim. In the Black community this is a serious problem that annually results in deaths - preventable deaths.

At least if the school were to offer swimming there would be a strong educational and life saving case that could be made, and the physical benefits would still be there.

Swimming/water safety should be manditory for all students (not just at that school) since not every kid grows up in an area where they have a chance to swim (or have people in their life that can teach them).
Posted by Hyzenthlayk9 on November 25, 2009 at 10:25 AM · Report this
This is especially problematic at a college. Most colleges offer terrible food, and it's especially lame coming from a school that ADMITS its dining services leave something to be desired. How about, instead of charging certain students for the credit hours to take phys ed, they charge all students a little more for their food services and actually serve something healthy?

Or don't charge them more and consider more cost-effective healthy options. I know my college's dining services served things like premium lunch meat and name-brand condiments...and brown, wilted lettuce and other gross veggies on the salad bar, white rice, and nutritionally devoid bread and pasta. I wonder if serving generic sliced turkey breast (which is no worse than the name-brand stuff, IMHO*) and ketchup would have allowed them to purchase fresh lettuce and brown rice and whatnot.

* and factually...……
Posted by Ms. D on November 25, 2009 at 10:35 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 49

Because he's a judgmental prick. Notice how he doesn't have a problem with fat people who are properly ashamed of themselves. You can take the boy out of Catholicism, but you can't take Catholicism out of the boy.
Posted by keshmeshi on November 25, 2009 at 11:43 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 50

My father had trouble swimming his entire life. He could tread water but that was about it. His alma mater required a comprehensive swim test for graduation. They had him in the water, desperately trying to pass him on the day of graduation. He never passed, but, since he was valedictorian, they were forced to let him graduate. Bullshit requirements like this are just that, bullshit. If you do the work, you graduate. End of story.
Posted by keshmeshi on November 25, 2009 at 11:45 AM · Report this
Am I the only one who finds this funny?
Posted by power on November 25, 2009 at 12:18 PM · Report this
I'd like to point out that there are also disorders like hypothyroidism that actively prevent the body from properly metabolizing food, leading to gaining weight and exhaustion, among other things. There are medications for the condition, but they sometimes have bad side effects. My mother has this condition, and she's been struggling with it and her self esteem for years.

So please don't pull that idiocy about calories in and calories out. Even if you do that, with an ailment like hypothyroidism, it's *not* going to help you lose weight, just make them exhausted, feel hungry all the time, and even make you sick. Okay?

I'm so fed up with people assuming things about fat people.
Posted by Proud of my mother on November 25, 2009 at 12:29 PM · Report this
10 - BMI is bullshit. It basically calculates your weight according to your height, and like 5280 points out, it categorizes anyone with lots of muscle mass as "obsese." That includes my husband, who has something like 2% body fat (close to Michael Jordan at his peak).
Posted by laurelgardner on November 25, 2009 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Nofo 54
BMI is to accurate, meaningful information as catholic church is to decency and morality.

I'm 6'1 and 200 lbs, which puts me squarely in the BMI definition of "overweight." Except I have 9% bodyfat, I run at least one marathon a year and I train with a competitive bodybuilder five days a week. I'm "overweight" in the same way Dubya was a good president.

BMI, you suck.
Posted by Nofo on November 25, 2009 at 12:36 PM · Report this
Geni 55
BMI amuses me, except when people actually try to use it to mean something. When I was bodybuilding and playing soccer, I was the most fit I've ever been in my life, and I was 135 lbs at 5'2", solid muscle (a caliper test could not find any fat on my abdomen at all). I weigh somewhat less than that now, but it's all pudding and flab, because I'm entirely sedentary these days. Yet my BMI is "better" than when I was strong as a horse. BMI is crap.
Posted by Geni on November 25, 2009 at 1:04 PM · Report this
DonBito 56
as a fat gay person, i have to say, all of you comparing Dan's legitimate comments on the health risks of obesity to homophobia are delusional.

and i really wish all the people either a) whining about how hard it is to lose weight or b) bragging about how simple it was to lose weight would pair up and jump off a cliff.
Posted by DonBito on November 25, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
It's really sad for me, a person with 3 degrees and suffering from cushing's disease to read this. There are so many reasons why a person might be overweight, so it is insulting for this school to assume all obese people need a physical ed class, because OBVIOUSLY these students don't know anything about fitness or exercise, right? I hope those poor students get a lawyer...
Posted by Tanya on November 25, 2009 at 2:12 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 58
When I graduated from college, our speaker was alumnus Isaac Asimov, who apparently had failed to fulfill all the technical requirements for his undergraduate degree because he had not passed the swimming test. The administration set up a wading pool for him, and then proclaimed him an official graduate (he had, of course, already gone on to earn his Ph.D.).
Posted by kk in seattle on November 25, 2009 at 9:31 PM · Report this
#10: Please rethink this idea that obese people should pay more for health insurance than non-obese people.

How bout we charge smokers more? And insomniacs? And rage-ahologics? And alcoholics? And sun-bathers? And those who suffer from various stress and anxiety disorders as a result of abuse or just plain bad relationships???

In case you're not getting my point, you cannot logically make an argument that a subset of chronic health problems should cost more than others. Most of the vices of human beings are coping mechanisms or just plain living life. It is logically--not to mention legistically--impossible to determine who should be "blamed" for their health problems by charging some people more than others based on these moral judgements.

And let's end on a more humane note: do you really want to live in a society that blames people for getting sick and that organizes around a philosophy of "I shouldn't have to pay for it?" How about learning about all those industrialized nations (all of them except the U.S.) that provide universal coverage to all of their citizens as a human right? Cuz, in those countries? No family goes bankrupt because a family member gets ill, no families choose between medicine and food, and even the conservatives of said nations are not so callous and small-minded and selfish as to argue publically, "I shouldn't have to pay for it."

Our national dialogue on health care is a disgrace.
Posted by maddy811 on November 26, 2009 at 11:55 AM · Report this
NaFun 60
My middle school tried to do something similar, but only for girls. Parents and students (rightfully) lost their shit and the program was canceled.
Posted by NaFun on November 27, 2009 at 11:37 AM · Report this

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