An unfair ‘weight’ for a diploma

DKS Editors

A new policy at a Pennsylvania university is tipping the scales in terms of fairness.

The policy – aimed at combating obesity – requires students to get their body mass index tested. If the students’ B.M.I is 30 or beyond, which indicates obesity, they must take a fitness course that meets three hours per week. No class? No diploma.

The university imposed the policy in 2006, meaning the first class under the new rule is set to graduate in May – a class filled with some students unhappy the policy is interrupting their senior year.

Don’t worry. Kent State doesn’t have a similar policy in place yet. In fact, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania may be the only school with such a requirement. Even so, we can’t help but point out the flaws in case university officials ever try a similar tactic here.

After all, a recent study by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease revealed that Ohio’s obesity rate could surpass 50 percent by 2018. The Columbus Dispatch reported in November that a state coalition is already pushing for state standards to make students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Ohio healthier.

There are ways, however, to promote healthy lifestyles without blatant discrimination, which is exactly what Lincoln University’s policy is. It isn’t right for a university to essentially create a “fat camp,” singling out students who don’t meet proper B.M.I. standards. It’s embarrassing, unfair and unproductive.

If the university wanted to promote healthy living, it should have created a blanket approach that would involve all students, regardless of their weight. It’s unwise to assume that a student with a 30 B.M.I. is unhealthier than the student with an 18 B.M.I. who eats fast food five days a week. Yes, obesity can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but that doesn’t exclude thin people with unhealthy diets from having similar or worse problems later in life.

Plus, what impact will one class realistically have on a student? Efforts to reduce obesity should be ongoing from the dining halls to the classroom and beyond throughout a person’s education.

Hinging a select group of students’ diplomas on completion of a fitness course defies logic. We laud Lincoln University’s commitment to health, but we can’t condone a policy that doesn’t involve everyone – students, faculty, staff and administrators.

Kent State doesn’t have a requirement for fitness, but it’s certainly something for university officials to consider as they hash out the new liberal education requirement plan. A fitness requirement for all students – such as taking a tennis, swimming or yoga class for a semester – wouldn’t be a bad addition to LERs.

Eat right. Exercise. Relax to relieve stress. Those are great messages for all students – not just those with a B.M.I. greater than 30.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.