We put your diploma at the end of this obstacle course

Via Deadspin, I found this story about a college in Pennsylvania, Lincoln University, with an interesting graduation requirement: students with a body mass index over 30 have to take a physical education class. They don’t have to actually lose weight or body mass, but they have to take the course, which consists of “walking, aerobics, weight training and other physical activities, as well as information on nutrition, stress and sleep.”

Some students object to this rule. One, Tiana Y. Lawson, wrote an opinion piece in the school paper titled “Too Fat to Graduate.” With a headline like that, you know it has to be a thoughtful, well-reasoned discussion of the issue, right?

Lawson starts out by acknowledging that the school has had the policy since 2006, but that “it seems as though Lincoln is more adamant about students taking the course this year.” So the first class of student to whom the rule applies are being pressured to fulfill a graduation requirement they’ve had three years to meet? Well, that makes no sense! Tell me more!

Lawson goes on to say, “I feel as though the administration is now telling me that not being a size two may hinder me from graduating from Lincoln.” Now, I don’t know much about women’s sizes, but I do know that there’s a lot of range between a size two and a BMI of 30. Even if BMI is a flawed or incomplete metric, this isn’t a situation where the school is using Kate Moss as a model for their graduation robes. It would be just a hyperbolic of me to assert that this rule will only apply to the fat twins on motorcycles from the Guinness book. But regardless of what Lawson “feels,” this policy isn’t a putsch against everyone who isn’t waifish.

Lawson makes a point, somewhat obliquely, by noting that if the aim of the phys. ed requirement is to “make everyone healthy” (as a friend put it), then everyone should be required to go. After all, skinny people can be unhealthy, too — ask Keith Richards. And maybe some people with a BMI over 30 are perfectly healthy, too. (You know, if they’re seven feet tall.) So maybe the college should require the course for everyone. But short of that, why not try to do some good without being terribly overinclusive?

I can see some cause for consternation if Lincoln had sprung this policy on its students with no warning. But, as noted, the rule has been in place since 2006, and students have had plenty of time to (a) not attend Lincoln, (b) transfer, (c) lobby the administration to change the policy, or (d) take the course. Weeks before one’s final semester isn’t the time to start griping. And hey — at least they don’t go to VMI. That school requires a phys. ed course every semester except the first one, when being a “rat” is exertion enough. Oh, and finally, who complains about taking what sounds like a fairly easy course during their last semester in college? Isn’t that the best time to try some of that experimentation I mentioned in the last post?!