Sorry, You’re Too Fat To Graduate

Can you imagine that successfully completing college and receiving your diploma could be dependent on the amount of pounds you’re packing, versus your level of intelligence or grades you worked for?

Some students at Lincoln University can.

Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania has instituted a fitness course, called “Fitness For Life.” The course meets three hours per week and is required for students with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. If you are asked to be in the class (due to your BMI) and you don’t complete it, you cannot graduate. Ouch.

Speaking Out

One of the enrolled students at Lincoln, Tiana Lawson, age 21, wrote an honest editorial in the Lincolnian, their student run newspaper.

She asserts, “I didn’t come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable range…I came here to get an education which, as a three-time honor student, is something I have been doing quite well, despite the fact that I have a slightly high Body Mass Index.”

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Freedom of (Weight) Choice

I am all for fitness and health. Yes, obesity is a widespread problem. I mean, I live in Boulder (one of the healthiest cities in the U.S.) and my financial value is largely based on wellness. But you know why all that’s okay? Because it’s my choice.

Instituting a required fitness class, because of your BMI (a.k.a. you’re overweight and others aren’t, so they don’t have to join the class) at your so-called place of higher education, is crossing the line.

I recognize where the educators of Lincoln are coming from. They want to look out for their student body’s overall well-being and general health. The point where they’ve crossed the line is by targeting “obese,” “fat,” or “overweight,” students and leaving out the “healthier” ones, due to¬† their BMI.


  • Include this fitness class for everyone. If you’re going to focus on health, spread the scope and testing beyond BMI. Think about those (regular) late night pizza runs or the traditionally gained, Freshman 15.
  • Offer fitness classes and focus on encouraging and increasing participation in extra-curricular activities e.g. rowing, running club, tennis, dodge ball, kickboxing, etc.
  • Integrate a health, dietary and general fitness practicum course for all incoming freshman and/or seniors. Give students a class they can draw dietary and cooking skills from that will be practical for their future and health.

The exclusivity of singling out specific individuals based on their weight isn’t fair. If they were on The Biggest Loser, sure, kick their ass in the gym, on their diet and make them work. However, this is a University (not a reality show) that is going about health and fitness in the wrong way.

Largely, students enroll in college to gain an education, learn, excel, grow and experience. The college years are a time of growth change, and challenge filled with insecurities and uncertainty of your adolescence to early-20’s. Don’t make the time worse by pointing the finger at student’s weight and then reprimanding them or not allowing them to graduate.

What do you think? Can you put yourself in the shoes of the students at Lincoln University? Would you have been able to graduate if your BMI was calculated at graduation time?

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